Prevent heart attack and stroke with potassium; it keeps your arteries flexible

Take care of your heart by eating at least one potassium-rich food such as a banana or an avocado a day to prevent heart attacks and stroke. A boost in potassium intake helps regulate blood pressure and give strength to muscles.

Foods with high levels of potassium such as bananas and avocados are often called “brain food,” as potassium helps stimulate neural activity.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight concludes that increasing your potassium intake may keep your arteries flexible, preventing atherosclerosis (or arteriosclerotic vascular disease), a build-up of plaque in the arteries, hardening and narrowing it.

Cholesterol mixed with calcium and other minerals build plaque. It thickens the inner wall of the arteries and narrows the opening, giving little space for blood and oxygen to flow.

Study author Dr. Paul Sanders from the University of Alabama, Birmingham said, “The findings demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular [hardening].”

The research analyzed mice already at risk of heart disease. The mice were fed either low, regular, or high levels of potassium diets. The results showed a significant hardening of the arteries of the animals with the low potassium diet while their peers with the high potassium diet had reduced stiffness in their aorta, the body’s main artery.

Previous research suggests the correlation between stiff arteries and a higher risk of a heart attack and stroke. The new study shows evidence that potassium regulates genes that maintain artery flexibility, reducing the risk of fatal heart disease. (Related: Proper potassium balance essential to healthy blood pressure and reduced heart attack risk.)

“The findings have important translational potential since they demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular calcification in atherosclerosis-prone mice and the adverse effect of low-potassium intake,” said Dr. Sanders.

Other potassium-rich foods

Eating high-potassium and overall healthy foods could help unclog your arteries. Here are some others to take note of:

1. All kinds of potatoes — White, red, and sweet potatoes are great sources of potassium.
2. Tomatoes — Sun-dried tomatoes have higher levels of potassium than fresh ones.
3. Dairy — Milk and yogurt are good sources of potassium besides fruits and vegetables.
4. Salmon — This has healthy omega-3 fatty acids in addition to potassium and other vitamins.
5. Coconut water — Dubbed the “tree of life,” it is no surprise that coconuts are a good source of potassium.

Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and getting more physically active are just as important in maintaining a healthy functioning of the arteries and your overall body.

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