The mineral potassium is a must for regulating pH, the acid-alkaline balance of the body’s chemistry. It’s also crucial for the health of your muscles, nerves, heart, kidney and adrenal glands.
Potassium is found mostly in vegetables and fruit, and the government's Recommended Daily Value is 3,000 mg. But most Americans get only about 2,000. According to a new study, that may be one reason why 800,000 Americans a year have strokes.
Italian researchers analyzed the results from 11 studies involving more than 247,000 people. They found that as dietary intake of potassium went up, the risk of having a stroke went down. More specifically: every increase of 1,640 mg of potassium decreased the risk of stroke by 21%. The researchers estimated that if every person in the world increased their intake of potassium, there would be 1.15 million fewer strokes every year! “These results support recommendations for higher consumption of potassium-rich foods to prevent vascular disease,” they concluded in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Potassium reduces the risk of stroke by lowering high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke. Studies show that a low intake of potassium increases blood pressure by an average of 6 points systolic (upper number) and 7 diastolic (lower number).
Supplements Alone Can't Do It
Unfortunately, you can’t count on an over-the-counter vitamin-mineral supplement to supply the potassium missing from most diets. The FDA restricts potassium in supplements to 55 mg because the mineral can build up to toxic levels in people with chronic kidney disease (whose failed kidneys can’t process the nutrient).
How should you get enough potassium? It’s easy! Eat one banana, and drink one cup of V8 or tomato juice, and you’ve had a daily intake of potassium that can normalize blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke. Other super-rich sources of potassium include potatoes, tomatoes, plums, and raisins.
And when you supply the missing potassium, make sure to supply the missing magnesium, its mineral cousin. Addressing both of these common deficiencies (the average American intake of magnesium is way below the Recommended Daily Value of 400 mg) produces dramatic health benefits and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Rich dietary sources of magnesium include legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.
"Potassium intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease a meta-analysis of prospective studies." J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Mar 8;57(10):1210-9. D'Elia L, Barba G, Cappuccio FP, Strazzullo P.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.