Harvard Heart Letter

Potassium-rich foods linked to lower stroke risk

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Eating more white beans, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and other foods high in potassium may lower your risk of having a stroke. As described in a study published online Sept. 4, 2014, in the journal Stroke, researchers tracked 90,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 70 for an average of 11 years. Women who got the most potassium in their diets were 16% less likely to have an ischemic stroke than those who consumed the least potassium. Ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke, result from a blockage in a blood vessel supplying the brain.

Women with normal blood pressure who ate the most potassium had a 27% lower risk of ischemic stroke compared with women who ate the lowest amount of potassium. But potassium intake didn't seem to affect stroke risk among women
with high blood pressure. One possible explanation for that finding: a high-potassium diet may be more helpful before high blood pressure—a leading risk factor for stroke—sets in.

The report also noted that the average daily intake of potassium for the women in the study was only about 2,600 milligrams (mg) per day, which is far below the 4,700 mg a day recommended by current U.S. dietary guidelines. Fewer than 3% of the women in the study met the guideline goal. For a chart of foods high in potassium, see health.harvard.edu/100

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