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Strokes. High Potassium, Low Salt

Now that I’ve reached middle age I’m constantly searching for articles which could help ensure a longer life and it seems that by cutting back on salt and increasing my potassium intake may reduce the risk of me having a stroke.

As a work from home typist it goes without saying that, for a woman in her early 50s, I maybe don’t get as much exercise as I should and, although I try to maintain a healthy diet, there are times when I’m required to work late and so take the easy option – microwave ready meals, quick fix meals such as baked beans on toast or (Heaven forbid!) the odd takeaway.

I try to exercise a bit at the weekend by walking or gardening but, as the UK weather can be somewhat unpredictable, it’s not always possible.  So, I was interested to see an article promoting a diet of low salt and higher potassium.

Recent research here in the UK has suggested that eating an extra couple of servings of fruit or vegetables each day was beneficial and, add to that a reduction in salt, and the risk of a stroke was lowered still further.

Recent study coming out of Imperial College, London and Warwick Medical School as well as several other eminent bodies, looked at 22 controlled trials and another 11 studies which covered around a quarter of a million healthy individuals and results clearly showed that by ensuring that we consumed 3-4 grams a day of potassium not only reduced blood pressure levels but also indicated that it cut the risk of strokes by almost 25%.

With regard to the reduction in salt, a study of over 3,000 people showed that a “modest reduction” over a period of a month or so decreased blood pressure which, in turn, reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease.  “Modest reduction” is based on a national daily average of 9.5g and this should be reduced to around 6g but ideally this should be 5g (about a level teaspoon).  According to research the biggest source of salt comes from shop bought bread!  If  you’re able though, a further reduction to 3g a day would be even more beneficial but this isn’t an easy target to reach if, like me, you sometimes have to rely on less natural ingredients in home cooked meals or having to opt for ready meals, quick fix meals or takeaways.

The ideal solution to the problems seems to be to eat more fruit and vegetables which combine both elements – high potassium and little or no salt.  In particular, it’s recommended that we eat more bananas, dates and spinach. 

If you’re wondering how to get your potassium intake up through a natural diet then it’s suggested you eat fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, milk, fish, chicken and bread.  Although bread contains salt, if combined with the other ingredients this shouldn’t cause any major problems.

According to history books (one of my other favourite subjects apart from health!) our early ancestors consumed a diet that was extremely high in potassium and very little salt but obviously, over the centuries and with processed foods on the increase, this lifestyle has changed drastically.  So basically guys, it’s time to go tribal and get out there hunting and gathering, but not necessarily from the countryside and hedgerows but from the supermarket shelves!

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