Potassium is one of the main electrolytes in our body and is essential for proper nerve function, muscle contraction, heart condition, blood pressure regulation, and other biochemical reactions. Potassium not only helps to regulate these functions but also helps to control acid-alkaline balance in the body.
What Is A Normal Level Of Potassium?
The normal range of potassium in the blood is 3.6 to 5.2 mEq/L. The blood level of potassium is controlled by a number of factors, including the intake, the kidneys, and adrenal glands, which naturally lower or increase levels.
A healthy male requires to take in about 4.7 g of potassium, while a female requires 3.6 g daily. A person with potassium sensitivity needs to take in only 1.5 g of the mineral daily.
Is it Possible to Check Your Potassium Level at Home?
Mostly, potassium levels are checked in the laboratory by taking a blood sample or urine sample. However, a person can check his potassium levels at home. With technology growing at a rapid speed, some devices like potassium kits are also available. You can also take your sample and send it to the lab for a potassium test.
How to Check Potassium Level At Home?
The ideal time to get your potassium level checked is after fasting for at least 10 to 12 hours.
The testing strip is made with chemicals that change color when exposed to potassium in your blood. A positive result means that the color of the strip changes to blue. A negative result means that the strip does not change color at all.
In case you are unable to interpret the results or the same is not available in the kit, you should share it with your doctor for interpretation.
Another option is collecting your urine sample and sending it to the laboratory for a potassium test. You will not be required to go to the laboratory as you can send a person or use other delivery services.
ECG is also used in hospitals to measure potassium levels. In this test, electrodes are attached to your skin, and an electrical signal is passed between them.
This signal is used to measure the heart rate as well as the level of potassium in a person’s blood. The spikes of ECG are used to check potassium levels.
Importance of Potassium in Our Body
Potassium is essential in our bodies, and it has several functions to carry out:
1. Helps to work as an electrolyte.
Your body uses electrolytes to conduct electricity, which is how the nerves in our body send messages.
Potassium is one of the five main electrolytes, which are sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
2. Serves as an antioxidant.
Potassium is known to protect the heart by preventing cell damage that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
It also helps in the oxidation process that involves turning vitamin C into glucose for energy production. Potassium also helps in the synthesis of proteins and the production of antibodies.
3. Serves as a regulator for cell fluid(Osmoregulation)
The ideal balance between water and sodium regulates the fluids in our cells. Potassium does this by regulating the amount of water that goes inside each cell.
This function makes potassium an essential mineral to prevent dehydration or swelling in our body.
4. Aids in regulation of heartbeat.
The electrical signals in the heart help in pumping blood through it, and potassium are very important in this process.
Potassium helps to keep a steady rhythm in our heartbeat. It regulates the flow of water, sodium, and calcium into and out of each cell.
Foods that Contain Potassium
There are many foods that you can consume to get potassium. Some of them include:
- Greeny vegetables.
- Root vegetables like potatoes, yams, and carrots.
- Kidney beans and lima beans
Signs that You Need to Increase Potassium Intake
In case of low potassium level or hypokalemia, you will experience some signs and symptoms such as:
- Fatigue and Weakness. You feel very tired and weak such that you can hardly carry out your daily activities. This is usually because of the depletion of potassium in your bloodstream.
- Muscle Cramps. You feel muscle cramps mostly in the legs and arms because muscles need potassium to work properly and if this mineral is not available, then they don’t function well and it leads to cramps.
- Bowel Movement and Urination. You may think that you need to go to the washroom, but when you try, nothing comes out just like in the case of constipation where your body is unable to push down anything through the bowel(stool).
- Loss of Appetite. You find it difficult to eat food which is why you do not consume much; however; even when you eat, the food does not seem to have any taste.
Some Other Serious Signs of Low Potassium Level
- Irregular Heartbeat. This is usually because the signals in your heart are slowed down due to low potassium levels which makes it difficult for it to pump blood through your body normally. Blood pressure may also be high when this happens.
- Muscle Weakness. If you experience this, then your level of potassium is very low and it often affects the muscles in your body which results in many different kinds of weakness including progressive paralysis that involves the inability to move parts of the body or walk without help.
- Chest Pain. This also involves reduced blood flow due to slow heart beat which is why you experience chest pain.
- Nausea and Vomiting. These are symptoms that alert you that your potassium level is very low because this mineral helps in preventing nausea and vomiting. It also decreases the production of stomach acid which actually reduces the chances of vomiting.
- Heart Palpitations. This usually means that there are problems with your heart such as irregular heartbeat which is why you feel like it beats very fast and then slows down.
Signs that You Have High Potassium Level or Hyperkalemia
In case the potassium level in your body is high, then you will experience some signs and symptoms such as:
- Muscle Weakness.
- Nausea And Vomiting.
- Difficulty Sleeping.
- Irregular/Rapid Heartbeat.
- Loss Of Appetite.
- Pain In The Legs Or Back.
- Difficulty Walking And Swallowing.
- Weak Pulse.
You should immediately go to the doctor if you experience any of these signs and symptoms because it usually means that your potassium level is very high, which results in many different kinds of complications.
It is also advisable to visit the doctor if you experience any of these signs and symptoms after you have been diagnosed with low potassium levels because it may be a sign that your condition has made a turn for the worse.
Potassium is one of the important minerals that help regulate many functions in your body. This includes heartbeat, nerve impulse transmission, muscle function, fluid balance, and acid-base levels.
Low potassium level or hypokalaemia occurs when there is not enough amount of this mineral in your bloodstream, while high potassium levels or hyperkalemia occurs when there is excessive potassium in your bloodstream.
This makes it important to monitor potassium levels in your body because if you have a low level, you should know what could be the reason and take measures to correct this imbalance; however, if you have a high level, then you should go immediately to the doctor.