Why Is Potassium Important?


Quick Answer

Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that is vital for cells, organs and tissues to properly function in the human body. It aids heart and normal digestive function, as well as muscle contraction. Studies show that a high-potassium diet is good for bone health and may prevent osteoporosis.

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Full Answer

Potassium is found in most foods but is plentiful in bananas, avocados and citrus juices. Low potassium levels are linked to high blood pressure. Increasing potassium intake may lower blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke risks. Normal potassium levels, which depend on how much sodium and magnesium are in the blood, are 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter. Having more or less can be harmful. Hyperkalemia, which is too much potassium in the blood, is typically caused by kidney disease. Other causes include Addison’s disease and Type 1 diabetes. Hypokalemia, a condition in which potassium is too low, is commonly caused by the use of diuretics, which can cause potassium loss through urination. Other causes include vomiting, diarrhea, chronic kidney disease and diabetic ketoacidosis. People with inflammatory bowel disease commonly have low potassium levels. Symptoms of both hypokalemia and hyperkalemia include weakness, fatigue and arrhythmia. Both conditions can be life-threatening.

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