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More Potassium, Please

Potassium from bananas, sweet potatoes and white beans can help protect midlife women from strokes, but most of women in this age group don’t consume nearly enough potassium-rich foods. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York followed more than 90,000 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 for an average of 11 years and determined that those whose diets included the most potassium were 12 percent less likely to have a stroke and 16 percent less likely to have an ischemic stroke (the most common type where the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off) than were women whose potassium intake was lowest. They also found that the women who received the most potassium were 10 percent less likely to die than women who consumed the least, and that the risk of ischemic stroke was reduced by 27 percent among those who did not have high blood pressure and whose potassium consumption was highest. The risk of all types of stroke was 21 percent lower among these women than among those whose potassium intake was lowest. Women who had high blood pressure and consumed the most potassium had a lower risk of death, but not a reduced risk of stroke compared to those whose diets contained the least potassium, a result that speaks to high blood pressure as a primary risk factor for stroke. Only 2.8 percent of women in the study get at least 4,700 mg of potassium daily, the amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only 16.6 percent of the women consumed at least 3,510 mg or more as recommended by the World Health Organization. The study results were based on potassium intake from food, not supplements.

Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller et al, “Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in Women With Hypertension and Nonhypertension in the Women's Health Initiative.” Stroke, September 4, 2014.