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Medically Reviewed on 4/9/2021
What does potassium do in your body?
Potassium is one of the essential minerals required by your body for its smooth functioning.
Potassium is one of the essential minerals required by your body for its smooth functioning. Like sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte serving several roles including:
- Aids proper nerve functioning
- Helps muscle contraction and relaxation
- Helps maintain a regular heartbeat
- Helps regulate blood pressure
- Helps the cells communicate with each other through electrical signals
- Helps move nutrients inside the cells and waste products out of cells
Some of the rich sources of potassium in the diet are as follows:
- Green leafy vegetables including spinach, mustard greens, and collard greens
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Fruits such as grapes, oranges, apricots, grapefruits, and cantaloupe
- Dried fruits such as prunes, dates, and resins
- Certain fish such as tuna, halibut, and cod
Your normal blood potassium levels are maintained between 3.6 and 5.2 mmol/L. Values below or above this range can cause harm to your body.
The recommended daily intake of potassium for people in various age groups is given below:
The recommended daily intake of potassium for people in various age groups chart
|Birth to 6 months
The recommended intake may be lower in situations that may cause an increased potassium level in the body such as kidney diseases and certain medications that interfere with potassium removal from the body.
What drinks are high in potassium?
Some of the potassium-rich drinks are as follows:
The list of potassium-rich drinks with amount of potassium per 1 cup serving chart
|Name of the drink
||Amount of potassium per serving (in mg)
Besides these, other drinks such as sports drinks, herbal supplements, chocolate milk, vegetable cocktail juice, and spinach juice also provide a lot of potassium. Alcoholic drinks can also increase your blood potassium levels by causing cell damage and hampering kidney function.
What are the signs of low potassium levels in your body?
Low potassium levels or hypokalemia can harm you in several ways.
A mild decrease in potassium may cause no noticeable symptoms. Some of the symptoms of hypokalemia are as follows:
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle twitching
- Aches and stiffness
- Mood changes
- Breathing difficulties
- Numbness or tingling
Potassium levels less than 2.5 mml/L can cause life-threatening complications and require urgent medical intervention. Very low potassium levels can even cause lightheadedness and fainting. If you are on medications such as water pills (diuretics) or antibiotics; or if you experience profuse sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting; or if you have health conditions such as kidney diseases or eating disorders, you may be at risk of low potassium levels in your body.
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What are the signs of high potassium levels in your body?
Excess of potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia. In a healthy individual, the kidneys maintain potassium levels by removing extra potassium from the body through the urine. In some conditions, however, this regulation may fail or become insufficient. These include kidney diseases, certain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and blood pressure medications. If people with advanced kidney disease consume a high-potassium diet or potassium-rich salt substitutes (also called the lite salts), they can develop hyperkalemia. The symptoms of hyperkalemia include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Palpitations/irregular heartbeat
The symptoms of hyperkalemia require urgent medical attention because they can cause serious complications when ignored.
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Medically Reviewed on 4/9/2021