Older Women Reduce Stroke, Death
Risks with Potassium-Rich Foods
Studied women 50 to 79 over 11 years;
women who ate the most potassium were 10% less likely to die
health benefits from potassium-rich foods are greater among
older women who do not have high blood pressure.
older American women do not eat the recommended amounts of
potassium from foods.
list of Potassium-Rich Foods in Story
More below about
Potassium and High Blood Pressure
8, 2014 - Postmenopausal women who eat foods higher in potassium are
less likely to have strokes and die than women who eat less
potassium-rich foods, according to new research in the American Heart
“Previous studies have shown that
potassium consumption may lower blood pressure. But whether
potassium intake could prevent stroke or death wasn’t clear,” said
Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., study senior author and distinguished
university professor emerita, department of epidemiology and population
health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY.
“Our findings give women another
reason to eat their fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are
good sources of potassium, and potassium not only lowers postmenopausal
women’s risk of stroke, but also death.”
Researchers studied 90,137
postmenopausal women, ages 50 to 79, for an average 11 years. They
looked at how much potassium the women consumed, as well as if they had
ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes, or died during the study period.
Women in the study were stroke-free at the start and their average
dietary potassium intake was 2,611 mg/day. Results of this study are
based on potassium from food, not supplements.
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.
Researchers suggested that higher
dietary potassium intake may be more beneficial before high blood
pressure develops. They also said there was no evidence of any
association between potassium intake and hemorrhagic stroke, which could
be related to the low number of hemorrhagic strokes in the study.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture
recommends that women eat at least 4,700 mg of potassium daily. “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,” said Wassertheil-Smoller.
“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.”
While increasing potassium intake
is probably a good idea for most older women, 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.
The study was observational and
included only postmenopausal women. Researchers also did not take sodium
intake into consideration, so the potential importance of a balance
between sodium and potassium is not among the findings. Researchers said
more studies are needed to determine whether potassium has the same
effects on men and younger people.
First author is Arjun Seth, B.S.
and other co-authors are:Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, Ph.D.; Victor Kamensky,
M.S.; Brian Silver, M.D.; Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, M.D.; Ross Prentice,
Ph.D.; and Linda Van Horn, Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the
The National Heart, Lung and Blood
Institute funded the study.
A diet that includes natural sources of potassium
is important in
controlling blood pressure because potassium lessens the effects of
sodium. The recommended daily intake of potassium for an average adult
is about 4,700 milligrams per day.
But potassium should be considered as only part of
your total dietary pattern. Factors such as salt intake, amount and type
of dietary fat,
cholesterol, protein and fiber, as well as minerals such as calcium
and magnesium may affect blood pressure. Researchers attribute changes
in blood pressure to certain patterns of
For example, the
D.A.S.H. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan study
found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat (1
percent) milk and milk products, whole grain foods, fish, poultry,
beans, seeds and unsalted nuts reduced systolic and diastolic blood
pressure by 5.5/3.0 mm Hg compared to the control diet (what the average
American eats). The D.A.S.H. eating plan also contained less salt and
sodium; sweets, added sugars and sugar-containing beverages; fats; and
red meats than the typical American diet.
Many of the elements of the D.A.S.H. eating
plan --- fruits, vegetables, fat-free or lowfat (1 percent) dairy foods
and fish --- are good natural sources of potassium.
tomato juice and tomato sauce (look for low-sodium versions)
grapefruit juice (talk to your healthcare provider if you're
taking a cholesterol-lowering drug)
low-fat (1 percent) milk
Is it possible to have too much potassium?
Too much potassium can be harmful in many older
persons and those with kidney disorders. Potassium affects the balance
of fluids in the body. As we get older, our kidneys become less able to
remove potassium from our blood. Therefore, before taking any
over-the-counter potassium supplement, consult your healthcare
You should also ask your doctor before trying salt
substitutes, because these contain potassium chloride and may be harmful
for people with certain medical conditions.
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