Why is potassium important for our body?
Potassium plays certain important roles in our body. A few of them have been discussed below:
- Potassium is an essential electrolyte present in body along with sodium or magnesium; responsible for assuring adequate functioning of our cells and tissues
- Potassium helps maintain blood pH levels along with sodium playing an essential role
- It also regulates water content in body
- Potassium helps in reducing high blood pressure levels caused by excess sodium
- Skeletal and muscular systems also depend on adequate potassium intake
- Potassium facilitates healthy heart beat patterns within body
What are the healthy levels of potassium intake?
Below you will find the normal levels of potassium required by the body on a daily basis:
- Pregnant and Breast feeding women - 4700 - 5100 mg
- Infants below 6 months of age - 400 mg
- Children between 7-12 months - 700 mg
- Toddlers: 3000 mg
- Children between 3 - 8 years of age - 3800 mg
- Children between 9-13 years of age - 4500 mg
- Teenagers both boys and girls - 4700 mg
- Adults - 4700 mg
What are the different sources of potassium?
- Almonds or other nuts
- Fresh green vegetables
- Dried tomatoes
- Kidney beans
- Figs peaches or other dry fruits
- Acorn juice
What are the low potassium food sources?
- Green beens
- Lettuce leaves
- Raw onion
How is potassium so beneficial for your heart?
Taking sufficient potassium does not guarantee total prevention of heart failures; however, there are a number of ways your heart can benefit from healthy potassium intake. Let us see a few of those:
- Diets that are prescribed for lowering high cholesterol levels are always seen to be high in potassium. Therefore, taking natural sources of potassium can help you in maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol.
- Potassium is also helpful in controlling high blood pressure. Rather, this is one of the important functions played by potassium in body.
- Potassium is an essential electrolyte that keeps your heart beating. It is because of this that abnormal heart beats are referred as one of the vivid symptoms of potassium disorders.
How much potassium needs to be present in your blood?
Doctors say that an adult needs to have 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles of potassium per liter of blood (mmol/L). Any deviation from this value may lead to potassium disorders as follows:
- Hyperkalemia - Too much potassium in body
- Hypokalemia - Lack of potassium in body
What are the causes of Hyperkalemia (excess potassium)?
Hyperkalemia can be caused due to any of the following reasons:
- Kidney disorders and failure to excrete excess potassium from body
- Alcoholism and drug abuse
- Excessive use of potassium supplements without consulting doctors
- Chemotherapy can also release potassium in body
- Any form of severe muscle injury or burns releases instant and high doses of potassium in body
- Heart attack or strokes
- Addison's disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Excessive dehydration
What are the causes of Hypokalemia (low potassium)?
Hypokalemia can be caused due to any of the following reasons:
- Extreme sweating
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Folic acid deficiency can lead to potassium loss. Therefore opting for periodic folic acid test is important.
- Use of alcohol above normal levels
- Over use of drugs
- Certain medication
- Renal disorders
What are the symptoms of Hyperkalemia?
Following are the common symptoms of Hyperkalemia:
- Arrhythmias - A condition where individuals suffer from disturbed heart beat rates due lack of potassium or any other health condition.
- Breathing difficulties
- Tingling sensation and numbness
- Chest pain
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Bowel disorders such as constipation
- Vomiting and nausea
- Muscle cramps and pain
- General weakness
What are the symptoms of Hypokalemia?
- Excessive weakness
- Muscle twitching and cramps
- Rare cases may experience temporary paralysis
- Increased urination
- Frequently feeling thirsty
- Low blood pressure leading to fainting
- Experiencing bloating
What test does a doctor prescribe for Hyperkalemia and/or Hypokalemia?
- A doctor will order a potassium blood test to detect the amount of Potassium in body
- Besides, ECG/EKG can also be opted to determine heart beat patterns
- A kidney function test is also vital for potassium testing and vice versa. Kidneys play an important role in maintaining a sound balance of potassium within body. Therefore, abrupt potassium levels call for kidney function test and disturbed renal functions call for potassium tests.
- Diabetes also governs potassium levels in body. Therefore, testing for diabetes while experiencing potassium disorder symptoms is also beneficial.
- Finally, discussing symptoms with your doctor, accurately, is vital to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment
Where can I go for Potassium tests?
Potassium tests are available with multiple diagnostic centers across various cities in India. To know the best, affordable as well as nearest diagnostic center according to your location, you may visit here.
What are the treatment options for Hyperkalemia?
Hyperkalemia can be easily treated with medicines and dietary changes. Following are few of the steps you can opt for:
- Exclude edibles that are rich in potassium. However, make sure that you are discussing it with your doctor before eliminating any vital food item from diet.
- Medicines may be prescribed that reduce potassium levels. Again, there are some other pharmaceutical drugs that increase levels of potassium. Therefore, discussing the same with your doctor and then deciding the steps to be followed is essential.
- Administering sodium bicarbonate
- Diurectics to increase kidney excretion and thus eliminating potassium from body
- Dialysis to improve renal functions that obstruct potassium balance in body. However, this is opted only when situations are severe and cannot be controlled by other methods.
- Extreme cases may call for intravenous therapy that triggers cell movement for external cell space to inside of cells.
What are the treatment options for Hypokalemia?
Treating Hypokalemia is quite easy; as it involves inclusion of potassium rich food in your diet and certain potassium supplements. However, always make sure that you are taking supplements only after discussing with doctors. Prolonged use of potassium can have other side effects. To name one is Hyperkalemia.
Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors can be taken under doctor's advice. These help in reducing renal excretion of potassium. However, this can again lead to excess potassium in body and therefore continuous monitoring with doctor is essential.
Is surgical treatment important for Hypokalemia?
Not under general conditions. Surgical interventions are needed only when there is a major cause behind loss of potassium from body and medication fails to deliver required solutions.
Renal disorders or intestinal obstructions leading to excess vomiting and diarrhea are the common reasons that call for surgical treatment.
What is Hypopotassemia?
Hypopotassemia is nothing but an alternative name for Hypokalemia. Causes and treatments remain the same as discussed above.
Are potassium disorders fatal?
No. potassium disorders (Hyperkalemia/Hypokalemia) are not life threatening. Diagnosing and treatments are available easily. However, if individuals are neglecting early symptoms, and are not opting for diagnostic procedures, low or high potassium levels can lead to other serious health disorders and may even get fatal. Out of the two, Hyperkalemia is a more serious health concern.
How are atrial flutter and Hyperkalemia related?
As mentioned, Hyperkalemia is a relatively more severe condition as compared to low potassium levels. It is because, excess potassium in body may lead to an emergency condition known as Atrial flutter.
Atrial or heart flutter is a condition of arrhythmia where the upper part of organ beats faster than lower chambers of heart. This condition where the heart has a severe abnormal heart rate may prove fatal; if proper and accurate remedial measures are not taken immediately.
What to do if you encounter someone with atrial flutter?
A person complaining of severe chest pain or difficult breathing with disturbed heart rates, needs to be rushed immediately to a nearby hospital. Make sure that if you are taking care of the person, you keep him/her extremely relaxed and free from any mental stress and anxiety.
Atrial flutter can even be caused by other health disorders. Therefore, opting for regular cardiac check ups is very essential to avoid sudden occurrence of emergency situations.
Who remains at high risk of Potassium disorders?
- People who do not follow wholesome diet
- People who take up potassium supplements without doctor's advice
- People suffering from renal disorders
- People suffering from diabetes
- People who are taking medicines or drugs that either reduce/increase potassium levels
- Already existing cardiac problems