Eating more high-potassium foods such as sweet potatoes, beet greens, and white beans may help postmenopausal women reduce their stroke risk, a new study suggests.
Previous studies have indicated that higher dietary potassium intake may reduce stroke risk, but it isn’t clear how those findings apply to different types of stroke as well as to women who have hypertension and those who do not.
In findings published online today in the journal Stroke, researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaires from 90 137 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Women in the study were aged 50 to 79 years, had no history of stroke at enrollment, and were followed up for an average of 11 years. The researchers examined whether potassium intake was linked with total, ischemic (blood vessel blockage in the brain), and hemorrhagic (bleeding in the brain) strokes, and death from any cause.
Among women with the highest potassium intake (more than 3198.6 mg daily), risk of any type of stroke was 12% lower and 16% lower for ischemic stroke than among women who consumed the lowest amount (less than 1925.5 mg daily). Overall, women who consumed the most potassium had a 10% lower risk of dying from any cause than women who consumed the least.
Women who didn’t have hypertension benefitted the most from a high-potassium diet: those who consumed the highest amounts had a 21% reduction in the risk of any type of stroke and a 27% reduced risk of ischemic stroke compared with women who had hypertension. The researchers found no link between potassium intake and hemorrhagic stroke specifically in either group.
The study participants’ mean dietary potassium intake was 2611 mg per day. However, the US Department of Agriculture recommends that women consume at least 4700 mg daily. “Only 2.8% of women in our study met or exceeded this level,” senior author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, said in a statement.
The World Health Organization recommends that women consume at least 3510 mg of dietary potassium daily, but only 16.6% of women in the study ate that much or more. “Our findings suggest that women need to eat more potassium-rich foods,” Wassertheil-Smoller added. “You won’t find high potassium in junk food.” Good sources also include white potatoes, bananas, and nonfat plain yogurt.