Potassium is an essential mineral needed by the body for various functions. It helps to maintain blood pressure and acidity levels. It is necessary for the transmission of electrical signals between the nerves and cells. This mineral also oversees proper muscle contraction, protein metabolism, and water balance.
Kidney is the primary organ that regulates the balance of potassium in the body. It removes excess mineral by excreting it through the urine. The normal level of potassium is 3.5 to 5 milliequivalents per liter of blood. Anything below of 3.5 mEq/L is considered low potassium level.
Low Potassium Level, also known as the condition hypokalemia, is dangerous as this inhibits cellular processes. At least one out of five hospitalized patients in the United States have this condition. Those with eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa, who have had bariatric surgery, and who have AIDS or alcoholism problem are particularly prone to this medical condition.
Since potassium helps regulate blood pressure and muscle contraction, potassium deficiency can wreak havoc on your health.
- The number one danger is hypertension, which is a leading precursor of stroke and heart disease.
- Low potassium levels can also cause muscle twitches, spasms and the condition called restless leg syndrome.
- Another effect of hypokalemia is fatigue. It's common for people with potassium deficiency to feel extreme tiredness in the muscles. This is because this mineral synthesizes protein and metabolizes glucose, which are primary sources of energy. If you have low potassium levels, your body will always feel tired.
- Hypokalemia is also linked to emotional problems including anxiety and irritability. Some studies even indicate that people with low potassium levels are more prone to depression than those who have proper levels of potassium. Since this mineral is responsible for neural transmission, it can improve the mood and prevent anxiety attacks.
- Low levels of potassium have also been associated with bone loss. It can therefore increase the risk of bone diseases like osteoporosis. Having adequate levels of this mineral can help prevent the onset of this bone ailment.
Because of these dangers, it is important to ensure that you have proper levels of potassium. Intake of potassium supplement of 4.7 grams a day can significantly reduce risk of hypertension, kidney stones, stroke, and osteoporosis.
However, it's important to note that high levels of this mineral, which is called hyperkalemia is also dangerous. This can cause heart arrhythmia and tissue damage. It is for this reason that nutritional supplements do not contain more than 99 milligrams of potassium per tablet.
Better than taking supplements is to obtain your potassium from food sources. A high potassium diet includes seafood, red meat, legumes nuts, and fresh vegetables and fruits. It's best to stay away from processed meats with preservatives that can deplete potassium in the body.