Background: Dietary potassium supplementation in hypertensive rats is cardioprotective. This protection includes a blood pressure independent reduction in the amount of damage caused by cerebral ischemia. Therefore, we hypothesized that dietary potassium supplementation would improve the outcome of ischemic stroke by improving cerebral vessel structure in normotensive rats.
Methods: Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats were fed a high (HK) or low potassium (LK) diet for six weeks from six weeks of age. At the end of treatment, cerebral ischemia was induced by middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion and the resultant infarct was quantified and expressed as a percentage of the hemisphere infarcted (%HI). MCA structure was assessed in an additional group of rats using a pressurized arteriograph.
Results: The cerebral infarct was significantly smaller in rats fed the HK diet, compared to rats fed the LK diet (21 +/- 5.4 vs 33.5 +/- 4.8 %HI HK vs LK p < 0.05). Vessel structure was improved in WKY rats fed the HK diet as indicated by an increase in the MCA lumen (298 +/- 6.3 vs 276 +/- 3.9 mum HK vs LK p < 0.05) and outer diameters (322 +/- 7.6 vs 305 +/- 4.8 mum HK vs LK p < 0.05). Wall thickness and area were unchanged, suggesting an outward euthrophic remodelling process. The HK diet had no effect on body weight or telemetry blood pressure.
Conclusion: These studies are the first to show a beneficial effect of dietary potassium in rats with normal blood pressure.