The Importance of Potassium for Your Overall Health
Potassium is a mineral that is indispensable for your cells to function normally. It is one of the primary blood minerals that is referred to as an electrolyte, and they conduct electricity when they are mixed with water. What does this mean to your body? They help to control nerve and muscle function, balance blood acidity/pressure, rebuild tissue that has been damaged, and hydrate. Potassium is more easily absorbed than sodium and initiates
a brief sodium-potassium exchange across cell membranes. The sodium-potassium flux creates the electrical potential in the nerve cells that help your nerve impulses. The electrical potential gradient assists with the generation of muscle and regulates the heartbeat. This prohibits the cells from swelling because if the sodium is not released, water will accumulate and eventually will cause it to burst. Potassium
is also a critical mineral when it comes to cellular biochemical
reactions and energy metabolism, as it has a role in the synthesis of protein from amino acids in the cells. Potassium can also participate in carbohydrate metabolism due to its activity in glycogen and glucose metabolism
, which is why it is important for building muscle and growth. Red blood cells contain the majority of the potassium levels in your body, which is why red blood cell levels are better indicators of the potassium quantity than common blood serum levels. This is why your physician may order a blood lab test for a Complete Blood Count
and Complete Metabolic Panel
to determine how your red blood cells are functioning along with your electrolytes. Don’t forget you can use a discount online blood lab test service
to save you money on all blood lab tests.
In the earlier times of humankind, the Paleolithic diet provided about 16 times more potassium than sodium as compared to modern diets. Nowadays, the average American gets about 50 percent of the recommended potassium and consumes twice as much sodium than potassium. This is mainly due to the processed foods that have an excessive amount of salt and low potassium content. The potassium mineral can be found in a wide range of foods. For instance, most of all fresh produce has high potassium and low sodium content. However, canned produce may lose some of its potassium content during processing.
Some vegetables that have a substantial amount of potassium include
- leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and parsley,
- legumes like lima beans, kidney beans, and lentils,
- tomatoes, and
- potato skins.
Some great fruit options to help increase your potassium intake are
- avocado, and
Whole grains with potassium include
- brown rice, and
- nuts, and
- wheat germs
If you are looking for protein options, you can choose from fish like salmon, sardine, and cod. Lastly, some herbs you can use to season your food to help increase your daily consumption of potassium are sage, horsetail, red clover, and nettle.
Although 90 percent of potassium is absorbed by the small intestine, it is also one of the most soluble minerals, so it can be lost through processing and cooking. Excess potassium is removed from the body through urine and sweat, which is why it is important to replenish your fluids with vegetable or orange juice. The kidneys are responsible for regulating the potassium levels in the body and keep steady blood levels while these levels variate. Magnesium helps maintain potassium in the cells. This means incorporating magnesium into your diet could be beneficial to maintain healthy potassium levels. Some examples of magnesium-rich foods include almonds, avocados, tofu, dark chocolate, spinach, chard, quinoa, bananas, and okra. Potassium loss can be triggered by the intake of caffeinated drinks, sugar, and diuretic drugs. You can also deplete your potassium levels with diarrhea or vomiting.
Most commonly used minerals
In fields like biochemistry and medicine, potassium is one of the most commonly used minerals. Its relationship between hypertension and cardiovascular health, it is often added to supplements. As mentioned previously, the American diet has reversed the high potassium-low sodium balance, so a supplement may help with balancing these out and reducing elevated blood pressure
. A potassium supplement can be helpful to treat hypertension that has been specifically caused by large amounts of sodium. Studies have found that adults that take a potassium supplement systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It can be especially beneficial to those over the age of 65 because older adults tend to not respond to blood pressure-lowering drugs, so a potassium supplement may be a great alternative. Additionally, potassium chloride is sometimes used to alleviate headaches, allergies, and infant colic.
High or low levels of this mineral can cause health complications that can sometimes even be severe, which is why it is important to maintain a healthy level in the blood and cells. Remember you can order your own blood lab tests at HealthOneLabs.com
if you need to you’re your current levels of potassium. Excess potassium consumption is often not an issue because the kidneys will flush the excess out. Elevated levels of this mineral are referred to as hyperkalemia, and most commonly occurs when renal function is decreased, gastrointestinal bleeding, major infection, or rapid protein breakdown. Hyperkalemia affects cardiac function and can be seen through electrocardiograms.
Heart Benefits and Side Effects
High blood pressure is one of the risk factors for strokes, so it makes sense that higher levels of potassium are related to lower risk of stroke. Studies have found that those that consume an adequate amount of potassium were associated with lower risks of stroke. Potassium deficiency is much more common, especially in those over the age of 65 and those with chronic illnesses. Low potassium levels
are associated with hypertension, fatigue, depression, cardiac arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure. One of the most common symptoms of deficiency is fatigue. Some symptoms include slow reflexes, dry skin, muscle weakness, and may eventually progress to insomnia, irregular heartbeat, nervous disorders, and loss of intestinal tone.
The imbalance of potassium and sodium is one of the main contributors to high blood pressure, which affects 1 of 3 American Adults. Physicians often prescribe Diuretics to reduce sodium
levels, but they also decrease potassium levels
even more, which can worsen underlying issues. The optimal course of action is to increase potassium-rich foods, reducing salt consumption, and following an exercise routine to improve physical stamina and cardiovascular tone. The ideal sodium to potassium consumption is 1:2. This means that when you increase sodium intake, you should also increase potassium intake either through foods of a supplement. Never take a supplement without consulting your physician first. The recommended potassium intake is 4,700 mg and some good sources include bananas, apricots, orange juice, prunes, potatoes, and squash. A natural diet that is composed of main vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is high in potassium and low in sodium, which can help stabilize blood pressure and prevent hypertension.
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