STROKE PREVENTION IN THE KITCHEN
by
Shirley Converse

Eating more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is a safe, easy way to cut your risk of stroke by as much as 40 percent over an extended period, according to two research teams working independently of each other.

Dr. Louis Tobian and colleagues, of the University of Minnesota, studied animals and found that rats with high blood pressure are stroke-prone, but that a diet high in potassium can almost completely eliminate arterial damage in such animals and, along with it, the risk of strokes1

Drs. Elizabeth Barrett-Connor and Kay-Tee Khaw, of the University of California at San Diego, studied humans and noted similar results.2 Their study began in 1972 with 859 men and women between the ages of 59 and 79. At the beginning of the study a careful record was made of all foods eaten for a 24-hour period, including brand names and recipes for home-made foods consumed. This record was then used as the basis for determining an individualís "typical" diet for later statistical purposes and evaluation.


During the course of the study 24 participants had died of strokes, all from the group that had a significantly lower intake of potassium . . . . In the group of 287 men and women who ate more than average amounts of potassium, no one had died of a stroke.


After 12 years the participants were divided into three groups based on the amount of potassium in their diets. During the course of the study 24 participants had died of strokes, all from the group that had a significantly lower intake of potassium than either the survivors or those who had died of other causes. In the group of 287 men and women who ate more than average amounts of potassium, no one had died of a stroke.

"We canít say that everyone can prevent strokes by eating an extra banana a day Ė but it could be quite helpful," Dr. Barrett-Connor said.3 She suggested that fresh fruits and vegetables that are not overcooked are the best source of dietary potassium and fiber. She cautioned against taking potassium pills as a substitute for these foods, however, as they may present other problems.

Some Potassium-rich Foods

Fruit Serving Size Milligrams
Potassium
cantaloupe 1/2 melon 682
avocado 1/2 680
dates 10 518
prunes 10 medium 448
banana 1 medium 440
apricots    
  dried 10 halves 343
  fresh 3 whole 301
watermelon, diced 1 cup 160
raisins 2 tbsp. 138
Legumes and
vegetables
   
potato, boiled in skin 1 medium 556
winter squash, baked 1/2 cup 473
sweet potato, baked 1 large 342
spinach, cooked 1/2 cup 292
lentils, cooked 1/2 cup 249
brussel sprouts, cooked 1/2 cup 212
broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup 207
mushrooms, raw 1/2 cup 145
cauliflower, cooked 1/2 cup 129
peanuts, with skins,
  roasted in shell
10 127

Source: USDA Handbook No. 456

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1Tobian, L., J. Lange, K. Uhm, L. Wold, and J. Iwai, "Potassium reduces cerebral hemorrage and death rate in hypertensive rats, even when blood pressure is not lowered." Hypertension, 7: Supplement 1, 110-14, 1985.
2Khaw, Kay-Tee, and Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, "Dietary Potassium and Stroke-Associated Mortality." The New England Journal of Medicine, 316(5): 235-40, January 29, 1987.
3San Diego Union, Thursday, January 29, 1987, B4.

Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XIII, No. 1, Winter 1988, pages 1-2.