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Bananas May Beat Stroke Low-Potassium Diet Raises Stroke Risk
  By Jennifer Warner WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD
Aug. 29, 2002 -- An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but a banana a day can keep stroke at bay. New research shows people who don't get enough potassium in their diets are more likely to have a stroke. The study, published in the Aug. 13 issue of the journal Neurology, found that people with the lowest levels of potassium in their diet were 1.5 times more likely to suffer a stroke compared with those who had the highest levels of potassium in their diet.
Bananas are probably the best-known dietary sources of potassium, but other foods rich in potassium include avocados, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, milk, and nuts.
In the study, researchers followed about 5,600 men and women over the age of 65 who had never suffered a stroke. Over a four- to six-year period, they also tracked the amount of potassium the people consumed, the level of potassium circulating in their blood, and use of diuretics (water pills).
Diuretics are commonly used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney disease. These medications work by increasing urine production by the kidneys and reducing the amount of water in the body. A common side effect of diuretics is that they lower potassium levels.
Researchers found people who were taking diuretics and also had the lowest levels of potassium in the blood were 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than diuretic users with the highest potassium levels. But study author Deborah M. Green, MD, of the Neuroscience Institute of The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, and colleagues say those findings do not mean diuretics increase the chance of having a stroke.
"The question is whether diuretics would be even more effective with adequate potassium intake," says Green in a news release. In an editorial that accompanies the study, Steven R. Levine, MD, and Bruce M. Coull, MD, say that's especially important for people who already are at increased risk for stroke due to diabetes, irregular heart beats (atrial fibrillation), and cigarette smoking. Researchers say more study is needed to find out if increasing potassium intake or using potassium supplements would prevent strokes.
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