Yes, We Have Gone Bananas!
Do you go bananas for bananas? If so, you may be protecting yourself from the risk of stroke and death. That’s because bananas are a good natural source of the essential mineral, potassium. And potassium serves as a sort of chemical counterbalance to excess sodium in the body, helping prevent high blood pressure. Stroke risk is linked to uncontrolled high blood pressure.
According to a new study, published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, scientists have long known that people who eat more fruits and vegetables rich in potassium enjoy a lower risk of high blood pressure. But they didn’t know for certain whether that translated to a lower risk of stroke or death.
Among postmenopausal women, it does. The observational study examined data from nearly 100,000 women aged 50-79 at the time of enrollment. The women’s dietary habits and health were examined for 11 years. Women with the highest intake of potassium were significantly less likely to experience stroke, or death, than the women with lower intakes of the mineral. The relative risk of death between the groups with the lowest intakes and the highest was 10%. Essentially, by eating foods like bananas regularly, the women in the high-potassium group slashed their risk of stroke and death.
“Our findings give women another reason to eat their fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium, and potassium not only lowers postmenopausal women's risk of stroke, but also death,” said Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., study senior author.
Other foods high in potassium include: sweet potatoes (higher than bananas!), tomato sauce, beet greens, white beans, yogurt, and prunes and prune juice. By the way, it’s possible to get too much potassium, and that can affect your heart’s ability to function properly. So avoid taking dietary supplements containing potassium, unless you get your blood levels checked first. As usual, dietary sources are best.
Arjun Seth, Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, Victor Kamensky, Brian Silver, Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, Ross Prentice, Linda Van Horn, and Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller. Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in Women With Hypertension and Nonhypertension in the Women’s Health Initiative. Stroke, September 2014 DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006046