However, other processes appear to be at work as well, he added. For example, potassium may be involved in slowing the process of atherosclerosis and preventing the thickening of the walls of arteries, all of which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
"More recently, a high-potassium diet was shown to exert a protective effect against the development of vascular damage induced by excess salt intake, thus counteracting, to some extent, the dangerous effects of eating too much salt. This large body of evidence from experimental studies provides biological plausibility to the protective effect of dietary potassium against cardiovascular events," Strazzullo said.
A higher potassium intake is safe for most people, Strazzullo said, adding that there might be some concern about elevated potassium for patients with kidney failure or those taking medicines that lower potassium. In those cases, patients should speak with their doctors, he added.
Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center, commented that "this is completely consistent with current American Heart Association dietary recommendations."
The best example is the DASH-type eating plan, which has been tested in various studies, he said. "The DASH diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and nuts, moderate in low-fat dairy products, low in sodium and high in potassium. The effect on stroke is likely mediated, at least in part, through lower blood pressure," Goldstein said.
Another expert, Dr. Gregg Fonarow, spokesman for the American Heart Association and professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, added that "clinical trials have established that a diet high in potassium and low in sodium can significantly lower blood pressure."
Because high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke, it follows that hig
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