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Tuesday 18th June 2019

Potassium protects against stroke

19th August 2011

People whose diets include plenty of potassium are much less likely to die of stroke than people who get very little, according to a recent Swedish study.


In general, foods high in potassium are generally the ones characterised as 'healthy'.

Dairy products, pulses, fruit, and vegetables are all high in potassium.

In the body, the mineral plays multiple roles, acting as an electrolyte, fluid balancer, nerve and muscle controller, and blood pressure regulator.

Lead researcher Susanna Larsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said that her study found a link between dietary potassium intake and decreased stroke risk.

She said that, however, there was no way to prove statistically that potassium decreased people's risk of dying.

The researchers gathered data on nearly 270,000 people.

Some of the people had previously been studied, because the researchers made use of 10 international studies involving middle-aged and older adults.

For every gram of potassium a person ate, the researchers calculated a 5-14% decreased increase of risk over 11 years.

On the other hand, the study subjects who consumed a lot of sodium and relatively little potassium were more likely to have died by the time the study finished.

While low-potassium, high-sodium diets resulted in deaths due to a number of causes, the most specific type of death was ischaemic stroke, in which the arteries that feed the brain get blocked.

About one person in every 30 that the researchers studied died of an ischaemic stroke.

However, getting higher levels of potassium did not affect people's risk of haemorrhagic stroke, which may mean that the stroke-related effects of potassium are not only tied to blood pressure control.

The mineral also helps even out people's sodium levels, keeping their blood pressure down.

In general, people should aim to get about 4.7 grammes of potassium per day.

However, people who have kidney disease should be careful about getting too much potassium, since their kidneys are not able to process the mineral.

For such people, getting too much of the mineral can lead to hyperkalemia, which is characterised by dangerous heart rhythm disturbances.

People who use certain blood pressure drugs should also exercise caution.

The finding seems to line up with a recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In that study, researchers followed more than 12,000 adults for 15 years.

Electrolyte imbalance is common in the US diet, where about 90% of all people get too much sodium.


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