Potassium Cuts Stroke, Death Risk in Older Women

September 9, 2014

The chances of stroke and ischemic stroke were reduced in women who consumed the most potassium in this study. The differences were greater in those who did not have hypertension.

High potassium intake is associated with a lower risk of all stroke and ischemic stroke in older women, particularly those who are not hypertensive, according to new research. Potassium consumption also decreases all-cause mortality in these patients.

Dietary potassium has been associated with lower stroke risk, but data on dietary potassium’s effects on various stroke subtypes or in older women with hypertension and nonhypertension are limited, the researchers noted.

Seth and associates1 studied 90,137 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years at enrollment who were free of stroke history at baseline; they followed the women prospectively for an average of 11 years. Total, ischemic, and hemorrhagic stroke and all-cause mortality were outcome variables.

The findings included the following:

• The chances of stroke and ischemic stroke were less by 12% and 16%, respectively, in women who consumed the most potassium than in women who consumed the least potassium.

• The likelihood of dying was 10% less in women who took in the most potassium than in those who took in the least potassium.

• Among women who did not have hypertension, the risk of ischemic stroke and the risk of all stroke types were reduced by 27% and 21%, respectively, in those who ate the most potassium compared with those who ate the least potassium in their daily diets.

• Among women who did have hypertension, the risk of death was lower in those who consumed the most potassium. However, potassium intake did not lower the risk of stroke.

“Previous studies have shown that potassium consumption may lower blood pressure. But whether potassium intake could prevent stroke or death wasn’t clear,” said Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, the study’s senior author and distinguished university professor emerita, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY.

“Our findings give women another reason to eat their fruits and vegetables,” she added. “Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium, and potassium not only lowers postmenopausal women’s risk of stroke but also death.”

The study appeared in Stroke, an American Heart Association journal.

References:

1. Seth A, Mossavar-Rahmani Y, Kamensky V, et al. Potassium intake and risk of stroke in women with hypertension and nonhypertension in the Women's Health Initiative. Stroke.2014 Sep 4. pii: STROKEAHA.114.006046. [Epub ahead of print]