Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Potassium-Rich Diet Tied to Lower Stroke Risk

Despite being acute events, strokes are largely preventable as they are mainly associated with lifestyle factors and often go hand in hand with other chronic diseases. One of the major risk factors is high blood pressure, so it would make sense that guidelines set in place for managing that chronic disease would also apply for strokes.

In order to best manage or prevent hypertension, it is advised that individuals follow the DASH diet. Based on loads of research and backed by literature, the Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) diet focuses on limiting sodium intake while maximizing one's intake of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products and lean meats are advised. In this diet, there is a bigger focus on fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds and healthy fats than even Canada's Food Guide, because the more of the above noted nutrients you consume, the better your odds are of stopping or cutting your risk of hypertension.

In the most recent study focusing on stroke risk, it was found that when participants increased their potassium intakes, the risk of them experiencing a stroke decreased. Potassium is an important mineral that helps regulation of the heartbeat, conduct nerve impulses and enables contraction of the muscles. It is not conclusive that potassium itself is to thank for these findings; it is most likely a result of consuming lots of foods that contain this nutrient.

Potassium is in many fruit and vegetables. The best known sources are probably potatoes, avocados and bananas, but potassium is also found in tomatoes, plums and raisins among many others! Additional sources include dairy products, beans and molasses. So while it's nothing new to hear that you should eat your fruits and veggies, you now have even more reason to follow up on that advice!