The incidence of stroke is increasing in this country as more Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, all of which are risk factors for this devastating disease. Fortunately, the risk of stroke can be reduced significantly by keeping high blood pressure under better control. Although blood pressure medications play an important role in doing this, there’s another simple dietary change that may not only lower blood pressure, but also reduce stroke risk. Surprisingly, reducing stroke risk may be as simple as increasing potassium in the diet.
Potassium to Reduce Stroke Risk: What Do Studies Show?
Several studies have demonstrated the role potassium plays in controlling blood pressure and reducing the risk of stroke. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that adults who had low levels of potassium were at increased risk of stroke, while another showed that a diet high in potassium from natural sources could reduce the risk of stroke by up to forty percent.
Why is It So Important to Reduce Stroke Risk?
Reducing stroke risk is particularly important for those with hypertension. The risk of stroke is higher in those with elevated blood pressure, particularly when blood pressure is poorly controlled. The consequences of a stroke can be devastating. Stroke not only has a high mortality rate, but it can result in long term physical and mental disability. Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and the third most common cause of mortality in the United States. The reality is that twenty-five percent of all stroke victims either die soon after the event or require long-term, specialized care.
How Much Potassium is Needed Each Day?
The good news is to reduce stroke risk it may be necessary to add only a few additional servings of potassium-rich foods to the diet on a daily basis. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables are among the best for increasing potassium levels; and most experts recommend around 3500 mg of dietary potassium each day. Some exceptionally good sources of potassium are raisin, potatoes, bananas, lima beans, spinach, and orange juice. Whole grain foods are other excellent sources of potassium and also contain magnesium which helps to control blood pressure and indirectly reduces the incidence of stroke. Complete lists of potassium-rich foods can be found by searching the internet.
A Word of Caution
Although increasing potassium in the diet is an effective way to reduce stroke risk, large quantities of potassium can be dangerous for those with kidney disease since high levels can build up and lead to irregularities in heart rhythm. Potassium supplements should never be taken without blood tests and close monitoring. Increasing potassium by eating fresh fruits and vegetables is the safest way to get the benefits of this important mineral.
The Bottom Line on Potassium to Reduce Stroke Risk
Adding more natural sources of potassium to the diet can be an excellent way to help control blood pressure and decrease stroke risk. Just one more reason to eat those fruits and veggies.