Reduce The Risk Of Stroke

Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States killing about 130,000 Americans each year – one out of every 20 deaths.  More than 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year making it likely we all know of someone who has had a stroke and if they survive, it can be a leading cause of serious long-term disability. 

There are several risk factors increasing our chance of having a stroke from our age, ethnicity, and smoking but food choices and particularly our mineral consumption may play a significant role in reducing our risk of a stroke.

There are three standout minerals appearing to be beneficial to lowering the chance of a stroke – calcium, magnesium and potassium.  Unfortunately, many Americans do not meet the amounts required each day.  By focusing on and understanding how calcium, magnesium, and potassium function, their food sources and what studies support their link to stroke, we can all take advantage of doing what we can to avoid this condition.

Nurses’ Health Study

A 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition did a meta-analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study 2 (NHS and NHS 2) that included more than 180,000 women over 30 years for NHS and 22 years for NHS 2.  Their review looked at food frequency questionnaires and their intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium.  What it revealed was women with the highest intake of magnesium had 13% reduced risk of stroke and women with the highest intake of potassium had 11% reduced risk.  Even though calcium alone by itself was not found to be associated with a lower risk of stroke, when all three minerals were combined together, it did show a significantly lower risk of stroke.  

Functions of calcium, magnesium, and potassium

Magnesium and potassium have several functions but both have a primary function they share that deals with the number one risk factor for a stroke – blood pressure.  Both minerals are needed for helping to regulate blood pressure and magnesium may play a role in maintaining cardiovascular health.  Calcium is used primarily for maintaining bone density but it does play a role in regulating our heart beat.

Food sources of calcium, magnesium, and potassium

Listed below are some of the best food sources of the three minerals. Obtaining these minerals through food sources is emphasized as the study showed that supplement pills of calcium and magnesium were not associated with a lower stroke but potassium supplements did show an association with a lower risk for ischemic stroke. 

It is still best to consume food sources as they provide not only the mineral but also other important nutrients along with phytochemicals that supplements won’t provide – supplements only provide the nutrient they contain. 

Calcium: Amount needed daily – ages 19-50 – 1000mg        ages 51 and up – 1200 mg

Here are some good food sources of calcium – serving size of one cup:

·         Skim milk              300 mg

·         Yogurt,plain           452 ng

·         Collards, cooked     357 mg

·         Spinach, cooked      291 mg

·         Soybeans, cooked    261 mg

·         Cottage cheese         206 mg

·         Kale, cooked            179 mg

 Magnesium:  Amount needed daily – Men ages 19-30 – 400 mg        ages 31 and up – 420 mg

                                                        Women ages 19-30 – 310 mg       ages 31 and up – 320 mg

·         Wheat bran                         ¼ cup                  89 mg

·         Spinach, cooked                 ½ cup                  78 mg

·         Soybeans, cooked              ½ cup                   74 mg

·         Nuts, mixed                        1 oz.                     64 mg

·         Shredded wheat cereal       2 large biscuits     61 mg

·         Peanut butter, smooth         2 tbsp.                  49 mg

·         Potato, baked                      1 medium             48 mg

·         Rice, brown                         ½ cup                   42 mg

·         Banana                                1 medium             32 mg        

Potassium:  Amount needed daily – ages 19 and up – 4700 mg

·         Sweet potato, baked                1               694 mg

·         Tomato paste                         ¼ cup       664 mg

·         Potato, baked                           1               610 mg

·         White beans, canned                ½ cup       595 mg

·         Yogurt, plain                            one cup    579 mg

·         Prune juice                               ¾ cup       530 mg

·         Soybeans, cooked                     ½ cup       485 mg

·         Banana                                       1              422 mg

·         Milk, non-fat                              1 cup       382 mg

Factors inhibiting intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium

One of the main factors inhibiting intake of these three minerals is that individuals simply are not consuming enough of each of them through their food sources.  Adding in more of the foods shown above will help improve the amounts needed daily.

Other factors have to do with aging. As we age, the body’s ability to absorb these minerals decreases and loss of the minerals through the kidneys increases.  Certain medications more commonly taken by the elderly can interfere with the absorption of these minerals such as diuretics and laxatives.