The observational study involved 5,600 men and women over age 65 who were free of stroke when they started the study. The participants were followed for four to eight years to record the number and type of strokes that occurred.
The people with the lowest amount of potassium in their diet were 1.5 times more likely to have a stroke than those with the highest amount of potassium in their diet. Low potassium intake was defined as less than 2.4 grams per day; high intake was more than four grams per day.
Researchers say that more studies are needed confirm these results and to determine whether increasing potassium in the diet can prevent strokes.
Other studies have shown that low amounts of potassium in the diet are associated with a greater risk of death from stroke. The study also looked at people taking diuretics, common medications that reduce the amount of water in the body and can rob potassium from the body. Diuretics are used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.
"Diuretics clearly help prevent stroke by controlling high blood pressure, but we wanted to see whether their effect on potassium levels would affect the risk of stroke," said study author and neurologist Deborah M. Green, MD, of the Neuroscience Institute at The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Of people taking diuretics, the study found that those with the lowest level of potassium in their blood were 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than those with the highest level of potassium in their blood.
Green stressed that the results do not imply that diuretics create an excessive risk of stroke. "The question is whether diuretics would be even more effective with
Contact: Cheryl Alementi
American Academy of Neurology