Stroke Risk Can be Reduced by Cutting Salt and Increasing Potassium Intake
Eating just two to three extra servings of fruit or vegetables per day (good sources of potassium) were found in one study to be beneficial. However, lowering one's salt intake further increased these benefits.
The research concluded that the higher amounts of potassium had a positive effect on blood pressure but did not have adverse effects on hormone levels or kidney function.
Because of these results, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued its first guidelines on daily intake of potassium, recommending that adults consume more than 4g per day, or at least 90-100 mmol.
The study was conducted by scientists from the UN World Food Programme at the Imperial College of London and Warwick Medical School and examined 22 controlled trials and 11 studies involving more than 128,000 healthy participants.
So exactly what is potassium?
Potassium is an important mineral that helps lower blood pressure and controls the balance of fluids in the body. About 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day will satisfy the new recommendations for potassium intake. Scientists believe the average consumption in many countries is below 70-80 mmol per day.
This increased potassium intake was also linked to a 24 percent lower risk of stroke in adults. Researchers believe higher levels of potassium intake would show benefits for blood pressure in children as well, but more studies are needed.
In a separate study on salt intake conducted by researchers at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine , Queen Mary, University of London, data from 34 previous trials involving more than 3,000 people were analyzed.
The study's team concluded that even a modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks caused blood pressure to fall significantly in people with high blood pressure and in those individuals with normal readings.
Lower blood pressure readings are widely known in medical circles to reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke.
The study's leader, Graham MacGregor, who is a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary, said the modest reduction in salt intake was about the equivalent of halving the amount of salt consumed each day. However, further reductions in salt intake would lead to even greater effects on blood pressure.
Professor MacGregor went on to say it can be difficult to reduce salt intake to the recommended 5g per day because of the amount of salt found in the food we purchase.
"Bread is the biggest source of salt in our diet," concluded Professor MacGregor.
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