While strokes are common, many people do not know a lot about what a stroke actually is, let alone how to avoid suffering from one. According to statistics from the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand, stroke is the third largest killer in New Zealand and alarmingly, around 10 percent of stroke deaths occur in people who are under the age of 65.
While these statistics are concerning, according to a recent study conducted by New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, consuming high amounts of potassium can actually decrease your chance of having a stroke – particularly an ischemic stroke (caused by a blockage in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain).
The study examined 90,000 women ages 50 to 70 and found that women who ate a potassium-rich diet were 12 percent less likely to have any type of stroke and 16 percent less like to have an ischemic stroke.
Among women who did not have hypertension or high blood pressure, the benefits of a potassium-rich diet were even greater, with women in this group 21 percent less likely to have any type of stroke and 27 percent less likely to suffer from an ischemic stroke, when compared with women who had hypertension.
While previous studies have linked potassium intake with the lowering of blood pressure, study author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D. says that this particular study suggests that the stroke-reducing benefits of potassium go beyond blood pressure alone. “We think the beneficial effects act through other pathways, beyond the effects on blood pressure,” said Wassertheil-Smoller.
Wassertheil-Smoller also noted that the study found that both men and women appeared to be lacking in potassium, with diets of highly processed and takeout foods resulting in many people consuming far less potassium than recommended by medical professionals.
“In the study, the average potassium intake from foods was 2611 mg/day,” said Wassertheil-Smoller. “That’s well below the recommended amount of 4700 mg/day by the Department of Agriculture or even the lower recommended amount of 3600 mg/day by the World Health Organization.”
While many people are not getting enough potassium in their diets, Wassertheil-Smoller noted that there are a number of foods that are both tasty, accessible and high in this vital nutrient. “Foods rich in potassium are bananas, orange juice, yogurt, potatoes, unprocessed meats, and green, leafy vegetables like spinach,” she said.