Potassium-rich foods may lower stroke risk in postmenopausal women. Senior author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller said, “Previous studies have shown that potassium consumption may lower blood pressure. But whether potassium intake could prevent stroke or death wasn’t clear. 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 researchers studied 90,137 postmenopausal women for 11 years on average. The researchers looked at the women’s potassium consumption along with whether they had strokes or died during the study period. Daily potassium intake on average was 2,611 mg and all the participants were stroke-free at the start of the study.
The researchers found that women who consumed the most potassium had a 12 percent reduced risk of stroke and 16 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke. These women were also 10 percent less likely to die, compared to women who ate the least amount of potassium.
The researchers also suggest that eating high potassium foods can be beneficial for high blood pressure. The researchers did not establish any link between potassium intake and hemorrhagic stroke.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women should eat at least 4,700 mg of potassium every day.
“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,” added 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,” she continued.
Adding potassium into one’s diet is generally safe, but this is not advised for those with high potassium levels in the blood. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before making dietary changes.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women and fifth for men. Women generally live longer than men, so having a stroke can have longer-lasting debilitating effects. For example, women who experience stroke are more likely to live alone or in long-term care facility, and have worsened recovery outcomes.
Common stroke symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, sudden confusion or difficulty speaking, sudden trouble seeing, sudden difficulties walking or maintaining balance, and sudden severe headache.
Although women may experience these general symptoms, there are other symptoms which are specific to women. These unique symptoms include loss of consciousness or fainting, general weakness, difficulty or shortness of breath, confusion, unresponsiveness or disorientation, sudden behavioral changes, agitation, hallucination, nausea or vomiting, pain, seizures, and hiccups.
Women also have unique risk factors that increase their risk of stroke. These include taking hormonal birth control pills, being pregnant, using hormonal replacement therapy, and suffering from migraine headaches with aura.
In order to prevent or lower the risk of stroke in women it is advised that women quit smoking, maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level, keep their weight in healthy range, prevent or manage diabetes, and get screened for atrial fibrillation.