Are You Low On Potassium?
By Brandi Monasco
You have probably seen potassium listed on the nutritional facts label on the back of your vitamin bottle or maybe even on the labels for certain foods, but have you ever wondered what in the world potassium is and why your body needs it?
Potassium is one of the most important nutrients that your body needs. Potassium is necessary for your kidneys, heart and other organs to work normally and to perform at their optimal level. Potassium helps by keeping your blood vessels protected from oxidative damage and also helps keep the vessel walls from thickening. It is essential in helping to maintain a normal blood pressure range and it helps to ensure that your kidneys are healthy and working strong.
Potassium also helps with:
- Balancing the effects of salt in your blood pressure
- Creation of proteins
- Regulation of your body’s acidity levels
- Nerve function and muscle responses
- Transporting nutrients for your cells and their waste
According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, the suggested daily intake for:
- Males and females over the age of 14 is 4,700mg of potassium a day.
- Children between the ages of 9 and 13 is 4,500mg per day.
- Children between the ages of 4 and 8 is 3,800mg each day.
- Toddlers between 1 and 3 years old is 3,000mg per day
- Babies less than 7 months to 1 year old is700mg per day.
- Pregnant women is 4,700mg and breastfeeding mothers should consume 5,100mg per day.
It is actually pretty easy to get your daily suggested intake of potassium. However, many people who do not eat a healthy and balanced diet may be deficient in it.
If you are not getting enough potassium in your diet, you may be increasing your risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Digestive disorders
- Heart disease
Potassium deficiencies can be caused by:
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- The use of certain medications, including some antibiotics and fluid pills
- Having physically demanding jobs, sweating excessively
- Having health conditions that affect the absorption of nutrients in the digestive system such as Crohn’s disease
- Having an eating disorder
If you have potassium deficiency, you can suffer from severe symptoms that can cause you to become very ill. Some symptoms may include:
- Muscle cramps in your legs or arms
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fainting due to low blood pressure
- Abnormal psychological behavior such as confusion or hallucinations
There are ways to make sure that you are getting enough potassium in your daily diet. One way is by taking potassium supplements. Another way is by eating foods that are rich in potassium.
- Citrus fruit
- Sweet potatoes
As with other nutrients, having too little – or even too much – of one thing is not a good thing. Make sure that you are getting the proper daily amount of potassium so that you can keep your body and organs in tip top shape!
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Brandi Monasco is a freelance writer, graphic designer and social media manager from Texas. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts and has recently found a new love for health and nutrition.
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