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Bananas and avocados could lower heart attack and stroke risk, study says

Having a potassium-rich diet could make you less likely to experience cardiovascular events, a lengthy 20-year study has suggested. This could include potentially fatal incidents like heart attacks and strokes.

Based on their research, scientists claim foods that are high in potassium such as avocado, salmon, and bananas help lower blood pressure and cancel out the negative health benefits of eating too much salt. They also found women in the study saw greater health benefits than men.

Lead researcher Professor Liffert Vogt of the Amsterdam University Medical Centers told the Sun: “The results suggest that potassium helps preserve heart health, but that women benefit more than men. It is well known that high salt consumption is associated with elevated blood pressure and a raised risk of heart attacks and strokes.

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“Health advice has focused on limiting salt intake but this is difficult to achieve when our diets include processed food. Potassium helps the body excrete more sodium in the urine. In our study, dietary potassium was linked with the greatest health gains in women.”

Involving almost 25,000 older Brits and published in the European Heart Journal, participants in the study were asked about their diet, had their blood pressure measured and gave urine samples to see how much potassium they consumed. Over 20 years, they were then tracked to see the impact of potassium on their health.

Blood pressure, among other vitals, was one element tracked during the 20-year study. (Siri Stafford)

Women who ate the most potassium were 11% less likely to have heart trouble than those who ate the least. In addition, men who ate the most saw a 9% decrease in the chance of heart trouble.

For all adults, the risk fell by 13% in potassium-rich diets. “The relationship between potassium and cardiovascular events was the same regardless of salt intake, suggesting that potassium has other ways of protecting the heart on top of increasing sodium excretion,” added Professor Vogt.

The NHS warns against eating too much salt, as it contributes to high blood pressure and could ultimately lead to heart disease and stroke. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 5g of per day, while in the UK, health officials state that adults should have no more than 6g of salt daily.

“This research supports current advice that cutting down our intake of salt and eating more foods containing potassium can be the recipe for a healthier heart," said Tracy Parker, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation. “An easy way to boost your potassium intake is by eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Other foods like pulses, fish, nuts, seeds and milk are also high in potassium and low in salt, so can help benefit your heart.”

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