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Potassium Functions, Sources, and Deficiency Symptoms

What is potassium in the body: Potassium is the principal intracellular cation. It is equally vital in the extracellular fluid for specific functions. It is one of the main blood minerals called “electrolytes” (the others are sodium and chloride), which means it carries a tiny electrical charge (potential). The blood serum contains about 4-5 mg. (per 100 ml.) of the total potassium; the red blood cells contain 420 mg., which is why a red-blood-cell level is a better indication of an individual’s potassium status than the commonly used serum level. It is essential to maintain a good potassium level to stay healthy.

Potassium Functions

The natural diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are rich in potassium and low in sodium, helping to maintain normal blood pressure and sometimes lowering elevated blood pressure. Potassium is very important in cellular biochemical reactions and energy metabolism; it participates in the synthesis of protein from amino acids in the cell. Potassium also functions in the carbohydrate metabolism; it is active in glycogen and glucose metabolism, converting glucose to glycogen that can be stored in the liver for future energy. Potassium is important for normal growth and for building muscle.

What are the Functions of Potassium in the body?

  1. Potassium maintains intracellular osmotic pressure
  2. It is required for the regulation of acid-base balance and water balance in the cells
  3. The enzyme pyruvate kinase is dependent on potassium for optimal activity
  4. Potassium is required for the transmission of nerve impulse
  5. Adequate intracellular concentration K is necessary for proper biosynthesis of proteins by ribosomes
  6. Extracellular potassium influences cardiac muscle activity

What is the daily recommended allowance for Potassium?

Recommended dietary allowance guidelines vary depending on age. Infants from 0 to 6 months old should receive 400 milligrams daily, and those from 7 to 12 months old need 700 milligrams. The RDA for children from 1 to 3 years old is 3,000 milligrams each day, those from 4 to 8 years old warrant 3,800 milligrams, and those from 9 to 13 years old need 4,500 milligrams. Children older than 13 and adults should get 4,700 milligrams per day, except for lactating women, who require 5,100 milligrams.

potassium rich foods

potassium-rich foods

What are the foods high in Potassium?

Potassium is found in a wide range of foods. Many fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and low in sodium and help prevent hypertension. Most of the potassium is lost when processing or canning foods, while less is lost from frozen fruits or vegetables.

  • Fruits- banana, orange, pineapple
  • Potato, sweet potato, beans
  • Chicken, liver
  • Tender coconut water is a rich source of potassium
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Yogurt
  • Dried apricots
  • Milk
  • Salmon
  • Pistachios
  • Raisins

Symptoms of Potassium deficiency

Potassium is needed to maintain good health. Although a balanced diet usually supplies all the potassium a person needs, potassium supplements may be needed by patients who do not have enough potassium in their regular diet or have lost too much potassium because of illness or treatment with certain medicines. Potassium deficiency causes Hypokalemia.

Hypokalemia:- Decrease in the concentration of serum potassium is observed due to overactivity of the adrenal cortex, prolonged cortisone therapy, intravenous administration of K ion free fluids, treatment of diabetic coma with insulin, prolonged diarrhea and vomiting.

The symptom of hypokalemia include

  • Irritability
  • Muscular weakness
  • Tachycardia is a faster than normal heart rate at rest
  • Cardiomegaly
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Changes in the ECG are observed
  • Passing large amounts of urine or feeling very thirsty most of the time
  • fainting due to low blood pressure
  • Abnormal psychological behavior: depression, psychosis, delirium, confusion, or hallucinations.

Hyperkalemia:- Increase in the concentration of serum potassium is observed in renal failure, adrenocortical insufficiency, diabetic coma, severe dehydration, intravenous administration of fluids with excessive potassium salts

The manifestations of hyperkalemia include

  • Depression of the central nervous system
  • Mental confusion
  • Numbness
  • Bradycardia with reduced heart sounds and finally cardiac arrest.

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