The Importance of Potassium to Your Health
Potassium is an important mineral that we get from the foods we eat everyday. It is necessary for regulating body fluid balance so that the heart stays healthy.
Being an electrolyte, potassium carries an electric charge. It works together with other electrolytes, such as sodium and magnesium, to keep in balance the body’s blood chemistry and keep the body functioning well. Potassium is also important when the body makes use of protein and builds bones, muscles and other cells.
Everyone needs potassium to function well, but there is no recommended fixed amount. The amount of potassium a person needs varies depending on each one’s health.
Why is Potassium Level Monitoring Necessary?
People who have high levels of potassium in their blood have the condition called hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia may be due to the intake of certain medications, hormonal deficiencies and kidney disease. In particular, individuals suffering from a kidney disease tend to retain potassium instead of get rid of them. Too much potassium in the blood can cause irregular heartbeats, so a doctor needs to monitor the potassium levels of a patient with kidney disease.
People with low potassium levels are said to have hypokalemia. Those with high blood pressure are at risk of hypokalemia, because medication for high blood pressure can deplete potassium. In addition, some causes of hypokalemia include diarrhea, vomiting, eating disorders, intake of some laxatives and diuretics. The symptoms of low potassium levels include constipation, muscle cramps, fatigue and weakness. Too low potassium levels also affect the heartbeat. So, if you take high blood pressure medications, or have conditions that may possibly lower your potassium levels, be sure to consult your doctor who may require potassium level monitoring.
Foods Rich in Potassium
Foods that are considered high in potassium must have a minimum of 350 mg of potassium per serving. Aside from bananas, other high potassium foods include cantaloupe, beets, dried apricots, figs, melon, honeydew and orange juice.
People can eat more cantaloupe and honeydew in one sitting, so these fruits are great for those who need to increase their potassium levels. Potatoes with the skin, dairy products, soy products and meat products are also rich in potassium.
Many people are used to eating food items that are naturally rich in potassium. But for individuals who may be suffering from a kidney disease or high blood pressure, caution is necessary. It is recommended that they consult a doctor and dietitian who can provide a meal plan that is appropriate for their condition.
Photo credits: Cavendish Bananas by Augustus Binu via Wikipedia, CC by-SA 4.0