Tag Archives: stroke

Potassium Powerhouse Foods for Stroke Prevention and More

I frequently recommend foods high in potassium to my patients with high blood pressure. A recent study has me thinking I need to recommend these foods to more patients. This new study revealed that postmenopausal women who consumed the most potassium reduced their chance of stroke by 12% compared to those who ate the least. Women who didn’t have high blood pressure noticed an even better outcome from eating more potassium with a 27% reduction in strokes. Potassium is thought to improve the functioning of small blood vessels in the brain and throughout the body, partially by improving nitric oxide formation which can help open up blood vessels.

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

In truth, I recommend high potassium diets to most of my patients by encouraging them to eat a lot of vegetables. I believe that one of the reasons we need to get our 5-7 servings of veggies and fruit every day is to make sure we get adequate potassium. The average adult needs about 4700 mg of potassium a day. Many of the best potassium-rich foods are vegetables. For instance, a cup of cooked Swiss chard offers around 900 mg of potassium. Other high potassium foods include spinach, bok choy, beets, nuts, and dried beans. For a great list of potassium-rich foods, I like the chart available from World’s Healthiest Foods. My husband and I additionally take an electrolyte mixture that includes potassium when we work on the farm during these hot summers. Another good choice might be coconut water to help replace some of the potassium lost through sweating.

By emphasizing potassium intake, we get all of the benefits offered by this crucial mineral. Potassium is essential for nerve function throughout the body and especially in the heart. Getting adequate potassium can help preserve bone density and prevent the formation of kidney stones. Potassium deficiency might contribute to premenstrual issues and possibly the development of diabetes. As I mentioned above, eating high potassium foods can be one of the steps to help people reach a healthy blood pressure goal. And when we eat high potassium foods, we also get the full range of powerhouse nutrients that these foods provide. It is likely that these additional minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants from fruits and veggies contribute to some of the cardiovascular protection seen in these studies.

So figure out what high potassium foods you love to eat, and if you want some tips on getting more vegetables in your family’s life, check out my blog on getting kids to eat veggies.

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Brain Protecting Mediterranean Diet

I frequently recommend the Mediterranean diet to my patients who are at higher risk for heart disease. Many studies have shown that this diet lowers the risk of cancer, cognitive disorders, and heart disease. I also like this diet because it can be easy to follow. This basis of the diet is to consume more fish, olive oil, nuts, beans, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. At the same time, you reduce your consumption of red meat, sugar, and unhealthy fats like saturated fats, trans-fats, and oils high in Omega-6 fatty acids like corn and soybean oil. Of course, this diet also includes an occasional glass of red wine.

Now, there is a new study on the brain benefits of the Mediterranean diet that has me even more excited about it. This study showed that following the Mediterranean diet might prevent against damage to small blood vessels in the brain as shown on MRI. This protection of brain blood vessels may help reduce the risk of stroke and cognitive decline. Increased consumption of olive oil seems to be the component of the Mediterranean diet that is most closely correlated to this protection. More importantly, it was the ratio of the monounsaturated fats in olive oil to the amount of saturated fats found in meat and full fat dairy products. This is why the Mediterranean diet both emphasizes increased consumption of olive oil and reduced intake of meat and other sources of saturated fats. If you would like more information on the Mediterranean diet, check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about the Mediterranean Diet.