Experts have suspected that getting more potassium in your diet may lower stroke risk — now a large, eight year study backs that up. Researchers at Harvard University in Boston tracked 43,738 men, ages 40 to 75, and found that those whose diets were richest in potassium, as well as cereal fiber and magnesium, had a “substantially reduced” risk of stroke (Circulation, Sep 22, 1998). A parallel study involving women is underway.
The apparent protective effect was especially strong in men with high blood pressure, says study leader Alberto Ascherio, MD, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health. But even men with normal blood pressure can enjoy a lower risk of stroke by reducing their intake of processed foods (they tend to be low in potassium) and loading up instead on potassium — rich edibles. “The best sources are vegetables, because they have high potassium/calories ratios,” says Dr. Ascherio. “Fruits are also good.” Some top picks: tomatoes (or tomato juice), spinach, bananas, and oranges (or orange juice).
Note: Don’t use potassium supplements without consulting your doctor, warns Dr. Ascherio. Potential risks include gastric irritation, ulcers, and even arrhythmias in some people.
Quick Tip: Potassium-rich snack: 1 cup nonfat yogurt and 1 cup cubed cantaloupe = 180 calories, 1,000 mg potassium!