Can a high-potassium diet help lower my risk of stroke?

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
People with diets high in potassium have lower blood pressures than those with potassium-poor diets, according to a number of studies. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke, so it's no surprise that higher potassium levels are also associated with lower stroke incidence. One prospective study that followed more than 43,000 men for eight years found that men who consumed the highest amounts of dietary potassium (a median of 4,300 mg per day) were only 62% as likely to have a stroke as those whose median intake was just 2,400 mg per day. However, a similar prospective study that followed more than 85,000 women for 14 years found a much more modest association between potassium intake and the risk of stroke. Additional research has mostly upheld these findings, with the strongest evidence to support high dietary potassium seen in people with high blood pressure and in blacks, who are more prone to high blood pressure than whites.

Never take potassium supplements without a doctor's prescription, as high potassium levels can be dangerous.  Instead, eat a diet that is naturally rich in potassium.

While limiting the sodium in the diet is important to lower high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke, eating more potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables can also lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke. Unfortunately, many Americans are falling short of the amount of potassium recommended daily as most are not eating the minimum recommended 4.5 cups of fruits and veggies a day.

While you are cooking on the grill, leave a space for a variety of grilled veggies. Toss together fresh broccoli, red peppers, zucchini, Portobello mushrooms, and Vidalia onions with your favorite low-fat Italian dressing and grill to perfection. Make sure there is enough for leftovers to stuff in a pita sandwich for the next day’s lunch.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.