New research published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke suggests that post-menopuasal women who eat foods higher in potassium are less likely to have strokes and die than women who eat less potassium-rich foods in their diet. There is good evidence from past studies have shown that potassium intake can lower blood pressure, but focusing on potassium alone and its effect has not been looked at as much, so this was a welcomed study.
Researchers worked with 90,137 postmenopausal women subjects, ages 50 to 79, for an average 11 years. They looked at how much potassium the women consumed, as well as the rates at which stroke or death occurred during the study period. Women in the study were stroke-free at the start and the average dietary potassium intake was 2,611 mg/day. Results of this study were based on potassium intake from food only, not from supplements.
"The researchers found:
- Women who ate the most potassium were 12 percent less likely to suffer stroke in general and 16 percent less likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than women who ate the least.
- Women who ate the most potassium were 10 percent less likely to die than those who ate the least.
- Among women who did not have hypertension (whose blood pressure was normal and they were not on any medications for high blood pressure), those who ate the most potassium had a 27 percent lower ischemic stroke risk and 21 percent reduced risk for all stroke types, compared to women who ate the least potassium in their daily diets.
- Among women with hypertension (whose blood pressure was high or they were taking drugs for high blood pressure), those who ate the most potassium had a lower risk of death, but potassium intake did not lower their stroke risk."
4,700 mg of potassium is the daily amount recommended per the USDA. According to Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., study senior author "Only 2.8 percent of women in our study met or exceeded this level. 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. Our findings suggest that women need to eat more potassium-rich foods. You won't find high potassium in junk food. Some foods high in potassium include white and sweet potatoes, bananas and white beans."
She did caution that there are some people who have too much potassium in their blood, which can be dangerous to the heart. "People should check with their doctor about how much potassium they should eat," she said. This especially applies to those with kidney problems.