Increase potassium and cut salt to reduce stroke risk

Increase potassium and cut salt to reduce stroke risk

Increasing potassium in our diets as well as cutting down on salt will reduce blood pressure levels and the risk of stroke, research in the British Medical Journal suggests.

One study review found that eating an extra two to three servings of fruit or vegetables per day – which are high in potassium – was beneficial. A lower salt intake would increase the benefits further, researchers said. A stroke charity said a healthy diet was key to keeping stroke risk down.

While the increase of potassium in diets was found to have a positive effect on blood pressure, it was also discovered to have no adverse effects on kidney function or hormone levels, the research concluded. As a result, the World Health Organisation has issued its first guidelines on potassium intake, recommending that adults should consume more than 4g of potassium (or 90 to 100mmol) per day.

The BMJ study on the effects of potassium intake, produced by scientists from the UN World Food Programme, Imperial College London and Warwick Medical School, among others, looked at 22 controlled trials and another 11 studies involving more than 128,000 healthy participants. The results showed that increasing potassium in the diet to 3-4g a day reduced blood pressure in adults. This increased level of potassium intake was also linked to a 24% lower risk of stroke in those adults. Researchers said potassium could have benefits for children’s blood pressure too, but more data was needed.

Salt solution

A separate study on salt intake, led by researchers at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London, analysed the results of 34 previous trials involving more than 3,000 people.

 It found that a modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks caused significant falls in blood pressure in people with both raised and normal blood pressure. This happened in both men and women, irrespective of ethnic group. Lower blood pressure levels are known to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary, who led the study, said that the “modest reduction” in salt intake was equivalent to halving the amount of salt we consume each day. “In the UK on average our dietary salt intake is 9.5g, so we are talking about bringing this down to 6g, or if you’re very careful you can get it down to the recommended 5g – but it’s very difficult because of the amount of salt already in the food we buy. “Bread is the biggest source of salt in our diet.”

Long-term target

He added that a further reduction in salt intake to 3g per day would have a greater effect on blood pressure and should become the long-term target for population salt intake. Getting people to eat more fruit and vegetables containing potassium was equally important, he said. “Salt and potassium work in opposing ways. So a combination of lower salt and higher potassium in our diets has a bigger effect than changing just one of those factors alone.”

Clare Walton, research communications officer at the Stroke Association, said high blood pressure was the single biggest risk factor for stroke. “We know that making changes to your diet can go a long way to keeping your blood pressure under control. “This research suggests that reducing your salt intake and eating more potassium-rich foods such as bananas, dates and spinach could reduce blood pressure and keep your risk of stroke down.”

The World Health Organisation recommends that adults should not consume more than 5g of salt a day (about one teaspoon). The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that salt intake should be reduced to 3g a day in the UK adult population by 2025.


BBC News- Health 5 April 2013



Useful vocabulary:

Stroke: apoplejía/ derrame cerebral

Charity: organización benéfica

Average: promedio/ media

Target: meta/ propósito

To issue: publicar

To link: enlazar/ unir

Led (to lead): guiado (guiar)

Halving (To halve): reducir a la mitad



Text commentary:

This is an article found in the BBC News-Health. I found it completely interesting because of the high percentage of people suffering from hypertension in our society at present, which is one of the most important cardiac risk factors and the most dangerous one associated with the risk of having a stroke.

The author of this text, based on the results of different studies, tries to inform that reducing the amount of salt intake and increasing potassium in the diet can lower blood pressure in adults, and it is an essential key not only to prevent people from having a stroke, but also from a heart attack, an angina and a sudden death syndrome.

Potassium is an important mineral that controls the balance of fluids in the body and helps lower blood pressure. It is found in most types of food, but particularly in fruit, such as bananas, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, milk, fish, chicken and bread. It is recommended that adults consume around 4g of potassium a day (or at least 90-100mmol). That is equivalent to five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

In my opinion, people should be aware of the importance of having a healthy and balanced diet in order to avoid a preventable disease. It is completely easy to eat properly, increasing the amount of this kind of “healthy food” and cutting down on others, like salt and sugar, that are just the opposite of beneficial for our blood pressure. Therefore, we can conclude with it saying that “Prevention is better than cure”.

What do you think about it? I would like you to give your opinion about the necessity of eating in a healthy way in relation to prevent cardiovascular and other important diseases. I think we can debate about this relevant issue, and also if you have another great idea to add! 

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8 respuestas a Increase potassium and cut salt to reduce stroke risk


    I believe that the high amount of salt that we consume is rather a cultural item than a necessity, and as any costum it can be change. Little by little every family could stop seasoing their meals with salt and start using other healthier elements as spices or lemon. It is true that salt has its own benefits but as the article sets: food in general has already sufficient amount of salt. There is no profit in adding extra salt to our food. On the other hand, I think that as young people we don’t need to worry much about taking food with potassium. Having a varied diet is enough.


    Nowadays, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke affect millions of adults worldwide. The impact is staggering, but in the other hand the changes simples, such as eating less sodium, can have a tremendous impact.

    As Ana say that we don’t need to worry much about taking food with potassium, I think if we try to change habits, in the future we will have our reward. The first steps are to pay close attention to what we eat, read the labels carefully and stick with fresh foods and vegetables. Simple steps like these may save millions of lives around the world.

    Finally, it is important to be aware that too much potassium can be harmful, as it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms or have harmful effects upon the heart. Older adults or people with kidney disease or those taking certain medications, including certain blood pressure medications and diuretics, may be at increased risk from high potassium intake. So we have to be carefully, and inform patients very well.


    In my opinion is not only that we have to eat less salt and more potassium, but also quit fatty food.

    I would begin by changing fast food, fries, factory baked-goods and so on, which I think are more dangerous to our body than salt.
    When we have changed this item I would continue with salt and potassium, but as the article says it’s difficult to measure moreless the amount you take per day.

    Finally I think that changing our diet is good to prevent cardiovascular diseases, but that change requires time and the persistance of the patient.

  4. IRIS LUENGO dijo:

    I totally agree with Ana, sometimes eating salty food is just about habits. The solution to that is to make population aware of the importance of a healthy diet and low salt intake. If it was so, families would not get used of cooking with too much salt. And as a result, children who will be parents cooking for their future children won’t miss a higher amount of salt on their meals.

    The potassium intake is necessary too as it reduces the cardiovascular risk. The main problem continues being the salt intake because of its dangerous consequences.

    In addition, a healthy diet combined with a healthy lifestyle can prevent us from other diseases such as diabetes or obesity. We shouldn’t forget about that, we can avoid those illnesses by a simply healthy life. And it is worth doing.

  5. Belén Leal Mora dijo:

    I haven’t written my name in the article! I am sorry to be such a scatterbrained girl!!
    Well, I have posted this article: BELÉN LEAL MORA

  6. SANDRA dijo:

    In my opinion, and as my classmates have said, I think that this depends on your costumes and your culture. All people of different countries don’t take the same amount of salt or potassium. However, it’s good to know that making small changes in our diet, we can eventually make huge profits and prevent certain diseases. And we should start doing these changes now that we are fine, and not wait for something bad happen to start making those changes.

    As Maialen has said, it’s not good to eat a lot of food which has potassium because we may end up having other diseases. I consider that eating a lot of something and eating fewer than another, isn’t good. You don’t have to be so extreme. So I think that the most recommendable aspect would be to eat a little bit of everything in order to have a varied diet.

    However, I think that there are also other risk factors equal important or even more than diet that could cause a heart disease (such as tobacco). So the best way to prevent a heart disease is to maintain a healthy life in all aspects.


  7. MANUELA dijo:

    In my opinion the results of the different clinical trials carried out and showed in that article should have a strong influence in our lifestyle. As we know cardiovascular diseases are very frequent in our society and can be the main cause of adult’s mortality. So I think that the reduction of salt intake as well as the amount of potassium intake should get into our daily diet as prevention.
    I agree with my colleagues that the intake of salt and potassium is a habit, with which you are bring up and used to it, so it is hard to cut off of it. Therefore it is important to take conscious of what you are eating.
    On the other hand, cardiovascular diseases are also caused by high levels of cholesterol, so I agree once again with my colleagues about the importance of refraining from eating fatty food. Nowadays the progressive change that our culture diet is suffering is a worried problem which has alerted the population because of the importance consequences, and there are campaigns that support a good lifestyle, in which diet and exercise are essential.

  8. CRISTINA dijo:

    This article talks about a prevalent disease, the hypertension
    When you have a high blood pressure, you haven´t any symptoms or signs that tell you that something it´s wrong in your body and this is very dangerous, because hypertension is an important risk factor of cardiovascular disease. People with hypertension have more probability of having a stroke or vascular problems.
    Patients with high blood level must have a diet without salt, but I think that it´s better to take this measure earlier. The problem is that people many times are not conscious about the importance of having a good lifestyle and they only change when something it´s wrong.
    So, it´s important to have good habits to prevent this disease: eat healthy and made exercise would be enough. I think that is easy have a healthy life following this two measures that would make us feel better and be more healthy.


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