Older women who consume higher quantities of potassium-rich foods are at a lower risk of death and stroke, a new study finds.
The study was conducted by researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Researchers found that postmenopausal women who do not have high blood pressure benefit the most from potassium-rich foods.
"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, the study's senior author and distinguished university professor emerita, department of epidemiology and population health, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in a press statement. "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."
The study lasted for 11 years and was conducted on 90,137 postmenopausal women, aged between 50 and 79 years. Researchers looked into data related to how much potassium the women consumed, their stroke incident rate (including ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes) and the death rate during the study period. All participants were stroke-free at the start of the study. They also had an average dietary potassium intake of 2,611 mg/day.
At the end of the study, researchers found that women who ate more potassium-rich food were 12 percent less likely to suffer a stroke compared to those that ate lower amounts of potassium. They were also 16 percent less likely to suffer an ischemic stroke and 10 percent less likely to die than those who ate the least amount of potassium-rich food. Among the hypertension-free participants, those that ate more potassium had a 27 percent lower ischemic stroke risk and 21 percent reduced risk for all stroke types.
"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."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the recommended intake of potassium for adolescents and adults is 4,700 mg/day. Recommended intakes for potassium for children 1 to 3 years of age is 3,000 mg/day, 4 to 8 years of age is 3,800 mg/day, and 9 to 13 years of age is 4,500 mg/day.
Previous studies have found that potassium-rich food blunts the effects of salt on blood pressure, which reduces the risk of developing kidney stones, and possibly decrease bone loss with age.
The current study was published online in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute funded the study.