What is Potassium?
Potassium (K+) is an important mineral the body needs to maintain and regulate many functions in the body. It is essential to life because it helps balance body water, regulate blood pressure, maintain heart function, and facilitate various cellular and tissue functions. Its function inside the cells is influenced by it positive electrical charge, which makes it a cation and an electrolyte, or a substance that regulates the flow of molecules, particularly water, across cell membranes.
As a mineral, potassium is found abundantly in seawater and soil. It is essential not only to all plants and animals, but also to man.
Potassium Food Sources
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In general, a healthy balanced diet that includes a variety of foods provides adequate amounts of potassium needed to maintain health and prevent disease. Potassium supplements are usually prescribed for people who have low blood levels of potassium (hypokalemia) and are used to treat some cases of high blood pressure or to prevent stroke.
Various condions can lead to hypokalemia, including repeated bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, kidney disease, diabetes, and various gastrointestinal disorders. Potassium deficiency may lead to many abnormalities in body function, including:
high blood pressure
irregularities in heartbeat
congestive heart failure
Potassium deficiency symptoms include fatigue, muscle cramps, slow reflexes, nausea, vomiting, mood changes, depression, dry skin, and diarrhea. Extremely low blood levels of potassium can lead to dangerous heart rhythms and death.
Potassium Side Effects
Obtaining potassium from a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is not likely to lead to side effects or potassium overdose in healthy people. However, some health conditions may increase one's risk for high blood levels of potassium (hyperkalemia). These include chronic kidney disease, acute renal failure, and taking certain medications, including:
spironolactone and amiloride, which are potassium-sparing diuretics
some anti-hypertensive drugs, such as captopril, enalapril, lisinopril, ramipril, losartan, valsartan, irbesartan, candesartan, telmisartan, eprosartan, and others.
some antibiotics, such as trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole
Hyperkalemia is potentially life-threatening, so patients with kidney failure must not take potassium-rich foods or supplements.
Potassium supplements can cause side effects such as abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other adverse effects associated with potassium overdose include muscle weakness, numbness or tingling of the hands and feet, slowing of heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, chest pains and death.
The US Department of Agriculture and the Institute of Medicine recommend consuming 4,700 mg (4.7 g) of potassium daily for...