05 Sep Dietary Potassium Associated With Lower Risk Of Stroke in Postmenopausal Women
First author on this paper was Arjun Seth, BS, Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller’s mentee and a medical student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller: We found in study of nearly 100,000 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative that a high intake of dietary potassium was associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke and death from all causes.
Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller: The unexpected finding was that this effect was strongest in women without hypertension (those whose blood pressure was normal and who were not on any medications for high blood pressure). In these women there was a 27% lower risk of ischemic stroke and a 21% % lower risk of all stroke types. There was no association with hemorrhagic stroke.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller: Clinicians should recommend a diet that includes potassium-rich foods. The current recommendations for dietary intake of potassium from the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are 4700 mg per day. The World Health Organization’s recommendations are for about 3500 mg per day. The average intake for Americans is considerably below that at about 2640 per day and in our study the women consumed on average 2611 mg per day so increasing potassium in the diet is important. There are many foods rich in potassium including the well-known banana, but also baked potatoes, orange juice, spinach, fruits and green vegetables in general, salmon, yogurt – it is quite ubiquitous. People should read the labels on processed foods they buy.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller: Since it is unlikely there will a randomized clinical trials of this issue due to excessive costs and feasibility, we need to get the best information we can from observational, longitudinal studies. There are quite a few cohorts, nationally and internationally, that have dietary data and these studies should be analyzed with regard to potassium intake so that we get more information on different population groups, people of different ethnicities, ages, sex. A collaborative effort should be undertaken to pool data. Also, it is important to consider sodium intake as we are not clear about the balance of sodium and potassium that is best. Our next paper will deal with sodium intake.