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A Well-Balanced Diet Is The Key To Balanced Potassium Levels

A well-balanced diet is the key to balanced potassium levels

(Photo: LucaLorenzelli, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Working to carry crucial signals to heart, nerve and muscle cells, potassium plays a key role in overall health and function. When the body’s supply of this vital mineral and electrolyte runs too low or too high, one may be at risk for medical issues that include digestive distress, abnormal heart rhythms and potential cardiac arrest.

“Potassium is an electrolyte that helps conduct electricity in the body. It’s crucial to our heart, helping trigger it to squeeze blood through our body,” said Stephen Compston, a licensed and registered dietitian with Renown Health. “Potassium is also crucial for our muscles and skeletal muscles — helping with movement — and the muscles in our digestive system, helping with contraction, which is important for digestion.”

People whose potassium levels are too high or too low typically suffer from medical conditions or are on medications that affect the regulation or absorption of this mineral within the body. For example, people with chronic kidney disease may have too much potassium in their bloodstream.

“Our kidneys work to regulate levels of potassium in our blood, so people who have any disorders or disease related to kidney function need to be careful with their potassium intake,” said Johanna Dibble, a licensed and registered dietitian with Northern Nevada Medical Center. “People who have malabsorption disorders or other states of malnutrition, along with athletes who sweat excessively, are at risk for low potassium levels.”

As far as medications that may affect potassium levels, these include ACE inhibitors and diuretics, among others. If you happen to have a medical condition or take a medication that could affect your potassium level, your doctor can monitor your body’s supply of this mineral through a basic blood test.

“Low potassium levels in the blood, also known as hypokalemia, can be asymptomatic or can cause GI distress, weakness and fatigue, tingling or numbness, heart palpitations, frequent urination, and nausea or vomiting,” Dibble said. “High potassium levels in the blood, also known as hyperkalemia, share the same set of symptoms as hypokalemia. More serious symptoms include a slower heart rate or even sudden cardiac arrest.”

For folks who do not have health problems or prescriptions that could have an impact on potassium levels, maintaining an adequate supply of this electrolyte tends to come down to a well-balanced diet. Experts warn against seeking out a potassium supplement without physician supervision.

“Most healthy adults can get enough potassium through diet alone,” Dibble said. “Do not take potassium supplements unless directed by a doctor, as having too high potassium can be dangerous and even life threatening.”

By filling your plate with a variety of unprocessed foods, chances are good you’ll be boosting your body’s supply of potassium. Prime sources of potassium include potatoes, broccoli, bananas, cantaloupe, avocado, salmon, beans, yogurt and milk.

“As with many things health-related, a diet packed with whole, plant-based foods is best. When you’re eating these foods, you’re not only getting potassium, but also essential fiber, vitamins and minerals,” Compston said. “Most of us don’t get enough potassium in our diet because we aren’t eating enough unprocessed foods.”

Story Credit: http://www.rgj.com/story/life/wellness/2017/07/11/well-balanced-diet-key-balanced-potassium-levels/468489001/