Potassium along with sodium is one of the main electrolytes in the body, important for many vital biochemical processes. The normal level of potassium in the blood is between 3.9 – 5.1 mmol/L. It’s main positively charged electrolyte (cation) inside the cell, while his level in out of cell liquids is significantly lower. With sodium the situation is inverse.
Exactly that cooperation between potassium and sodium, in complex biochemical processes, ensures many physiological functions, like transfer of nerve impulses, muscle contractions, blood pressure control. Potassium along with sodium works in the regulation of water in the body, necessary for protein synthesis, insulin extraction from the pancreas, carbohydrate metabolism, hormone-releasing, embryonic development, cell dividing, regulation of acid-base balance, etc.
Problems due to low amounts of potassium
There is enough potassium in food so in normal circumstances it’s rare to talk about potassium deficiency. But, there are situations and conditions when there can be a deficiency in the body. It usually happens to people active in sports activities and people under great physical stress, due to heavy sweating, than in cases of diarrhea and vomiting, during therapy with various diuretics that drain potassium, during a time of long hunger and various illnesses.
The first sign of potassium deficiency is overall tiredness and muscle weakness and muscle spasms. More serious potassium deficiency leads to an imbalance of electrolytes in the body that affects all muscles and nerves. That often leads to irregular heart rhythm, blood pressure drop, overall body weakness, confusion, sleepiness, thirst, and vomiting. For defining the relative amount of potassium in the body it requires lab blood testing.
It’s necessary for situations when there is suspicion that there is some problem with potassium deficiency and depending on the results of a blood test, fixing the status of its amount in the body. The best way to supplement potassium to the body is by consuming potassium-rich food like bananas, grapes, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, broccoli, fish, chicken, dairy products. In certain situations, potassium is supplemented by taking the pills with potassium or in severe cases with blood infusion.
Problems due to high amounts of potassium
Potassium is extracted from the body through kidneys, so in some situations when kidneys aren’t functioning properly it can lead to lower extraction of potassium and sign of hyperkalemia. High concentrations of potassium are usually numbers higher than 6 mmol/L. It can happen when excess usage of diuretics does not extract potassium from the body so it accumulates, also in case of diabetes.
The most common symptoms are muscle weakness, shivering, chest pain, heart arrhythmia, and it’s even possible for a heart to stop. It’s necessary to find out the cause of hyperkalemia and go with therapy in conjunction with treating the main illness.
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