Potassium acts as an electrolyte, along with sodium, calcium, and magnesium, and conducts electricity in the body.
► A diet rich in potassium can lower the risks of a stroke.
► 98% of the potassium in the body is present within the cells!
Potassium is the most important positively-charged ion present in the cells of the body. It helps in maintaining the heart, brain, kidneys, muscle tissues, and other organs of the body in a healthy condition. Hyperkalemia is characterized by the presence of excessive calcium in the blood, while a deficiency of potassium causes hypokalemia.
Health Benefits of Potassium
► Prevents the occurrence of a stroke in the human brain.
► Plays a key role in maintaining the salt and water balance in the body, along with sodium.
► Plays a key role in maintaining the osmotic pressure within the body cells.
► Maintains the pH of the blood, which is a measure of its acidity.
► Intake of potassium in sufficient amounts can prevent kidney stones.
► Plays a key role in the functioning of heart muscles, and also in the contraction of voluntary and involuntary muscles.
The recommended daily intake of potassium is about 3.8 gm. Important sources of potassium include meats, certain types of fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, etc. In addition to this, dairy products are also a rich source of potassium.
Vegetables: Carrots Celery Dry beans Potato Spinach Sweet potato Tomato
Fruits: Apricots Avocados Banana Dates Honeydew melon Nectarines Raisins
Causes of Hypokalemia
A deficiency of potassium in the body is termed as hypokalemia. It is caused by a number of factors and they are as given below:
~ A diet deficient in potassium
~ Excessive sweating
~ Side effects of certain medications, such as antibiotics and diuretics
~ Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia
~ Excessive alcohol consumption
~ Deficiency of magnesium
~ Disorders that adversely affect the ability of the kidneys to retain potassium
~ Renal disease
~ Use of insulin
The condition is characterized by the following symptoms.
~ Weakness and fatigue
~ Muscle cramps
~ Abnormal heartbeats
~ Muscular spasms
Women are at a higher risk of developing hypokalemia.
Causes of Hyperkalemia
The normal level of potassium in the blood is 3.5-5.0 mEq/L (mEq/L stand for milliequivalents per liter of blood). Hyperkalemia is a condition in which the levels of potassium in the blood exceeds this level. It is characterized by irregular heartbeats, and in extreme cases, can be fatal. Its causes are given below.
~ Excessive intake of potassium
~ Renal disease
~ Effect of certain medications
~ Excessive release of potassium from cells
~ Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
~ Gordon’s syndrome
Side Effects of Potassium Supplements
Intake of potassium supplements can have adverse effects on our body, some of which are given below.
~ Diarrhea and dehydration
~ Weakness of muscles
~ Abnormal heart rate
~ Dysphagia and pyrexia
~ Loss of consciousness
Hence, the intake of potassium supplements should always be under a doctor’s supervision. Also, people with kidney disorders, and people suffering from high blood pressure, should not take potassium supplements.
Now that we are well aware of the many important health benefits of potassium, we should not forget to include this essential mineral in our daily diet.