Potassium May Decrease Stroke Risk

Stroke and deaths were lower in older women who ate foods rich in potassium

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Leafy greens, certain root vegetables and fruits are especially high in potassium. And getting more potassium may be especially helpful to older women.

Stroke, which happens when blood flow to the brain is stopped, is the fourth leading cause of death in the US, according to the American Stroke Association. About 60 percent of stroke deaths are in women.

A new study of postmenopausal women found that those who ate the most potassium were less likely to have a stroke and lived longer than women who got the least potassium.

"Consult with a dietitian about the right diet for you."

The study was written by Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues.

The study authors assessed the amount of daily potassium 90,137 women in 40 states self-reported eating during an 11-year period. They also tracked the number of women who had a stroke and how many died.

When this study began, none of the women had ever had a stroke. On average, they ate 2,611 milligrams of potassium per day. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that women get 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily.

None of the patients took potassium supplements.

The authors concluded that women who ate the most potassium were 12 percent less likely to have any kind of stroke and 16 percent less likely to have an ischemic stroke — caused when a blood clot cuts off oxygen to the brain.

Also, they found that women who ate the most potassium were 10 percent less likely to die during the study than women who ate the least.

Among patients who had normal blood pressure and did not take any medicine to control blood pressure, those who ate the most potassium were 27 percent less likely to have an ischemic stroke than those who ate the least potassium, the authors found. Also, those with normal blood pressure were 21 percent less likely to suffer any type of stroke.

"Our findings give women another reason to eat their fruits and vegetables,” Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller said in a press release. “Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium, and potassium not only lowers postmenopausal women's risk of stroke, but also death."

The research team also noted fewer deaths among patients who ate the most potassium and who had high blood pressure or who were taking medicine to lower their blood pressure. But the amount of potassium that group of women ate did not lower their risk of stroke.

"Only 2.8 percent of women in our study met or exceeded [the USDA's recommended potassium intake]," Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller said. "The World Health Organization's daily potassium recommendation for women is lower, at 3,510 mg or more. Still, only 16.6 percent of women we studied met or exceeded that."

Foods high in potassium include potatoes, spinach, carrots, grapefruit, grapes, berries, citrus fruits and foods that grow on vines.

Not everyone, however, should eat more potassium. That includes people with chronic kidney disease who may be harmed by eating too much potassium. Researchers advised patients to consult their doctors about their potassium intake.

The study was published online Sept. 4 in Stroke.

This study was conducted in partnership with the Women’s Health Initiative. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 4, 2014
Last Updated:
September 6, 2014