The Importance and Benefits of Potassium

PotasPotassium is an important nutrient necessary for the proper function of all living cells.  It is an electrolyte along with calcium, magnesium and sodium.  Maintaining the proper level of potassium in the body helps improve kidney functions, helps blood vessels to open more efficiently by reducing blood clotting, may aid in blood pressure control and helps maintain the proper fluid balance in the body.  Proper levels of potassium may help prevent strokes and osteoporosis.

Most people can get the necessary potassium by eating a healthy diet which includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy, meat and some fish such as salmon, tuna or cod.  Foods which are rich in potassium include:  avocados, bananas, baked potato with skin, white mushrooms, plain non-fat yogurt, spinach, lima beans, Swiss chard, beets, cantaloupe, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, celery,  prunes, figs, oranges and watermelon.  It is almost impossible to overdose on potassium if you are obtaining the potassium from your healthy diet.

Having too little potassium in the body may cause irritability, fatigue, high blood pressure,  muscle cramps, irregular heart beat, weakness and/or stomach problems.  Potassium may be lost through the urine or intestines.  Some health conditions that may contribute to the loss of potassium are Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, those who are taking diuretics, those who are alcoholics, people suffering from bulimia or anorexia, people with a magnesium deficiency, athletes who exercise over long distances, or someone who suffers severe vomiting or diarrhea may become dehydrated and suffer potassium loss.

On the other hand people with too much potassium in their system can suffer nausea, vomiting and heart problems,  confusion, low blood pressure, tingling sensation in the limbs and possible coma. Older people have a higher risk of retaining too much potassium since their kidneys are not as efficient at eliminating the potassium.  Also certain medications may contribute to a higher potassium level.  If you suffer from symptoms of your potassium levels being out of balance it is important to seek medical attention immediately.  Potassium is present in some multi vitamins.  It is also available in supplement form, but potassium supplements  should not be taken except under the direction of your health care professional.