Vital Benefits Of Commonly Ignored Potassium

Photo credit: bigstock.com

Photo credit: bigstock.com

While most people are aware on some level that potassium is beneficial, not many could really tell you why. Most folks might know you can get potassium from bananas, but few among the general public understand just how vital this mineral is.

Potassium is considered an essential nutrient, and unfortunately, the vast majority of those living in the industrialized world are deficient. In the United States alone, a survey found that a staggering 95 percent of adults fail to get enough potassium through their diets. Potassium deficiency has been linked to many serious and even fatal health problems. This article will break down what potassium is, why it’s so important, and simple changes you can make in your diet to ensure you’re getting enough.

 

Why is Potassium So Important?

Potassium is an electrolyte, meaning that it helps facilitate the conduction of electrical charges in the body. Other electrolytes that work in conjunction with potassium include magnesium, calcium, and most importantly, sodium. The balance between sodium and potassium levels in the body is actually very important, and all kinds of health problems can occur when the ratio between these two electrolytes is imbalanced.

Potassium plays a crucial role in the transmission of nerve impulses, cardiovascular health, muscle contractions, and the regulation of body fluids and blood sugar.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) recommends consuming 4700 mg of potassium per day for adults. The World Health Organization recommends 3510 mg per day. While these figures may differ, both organizations agree that most people are not getting nearly enough. As mentioned above, the vast majority of people around the world are are woefully deficient. The average adult in the United States, for example, is only getting around 2600 mg daily.

Potassium deficiency, or hypokalemia, has been linked be linked to many conditions, some of which are very serious. Symptoms of deficiency include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Constipation
  • Low energy/Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Paralysis
  • Irritability
  • Cramps
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Kidney disease

In addition to these symptoms, evidence has been uncovered suggesting a strong link between inadequate potassium levels and heart disease, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of stroke. A report in Today’s Dietitian detailed a study on the effectiveness of a high potassium diet on people at risk of heart disease. Participants who ate at least 4069 mg of potassium per day saw their risk lowered by 49 percent versus those who ate less than 1000 mg daily.

Low levels of potassium are also sometimes a symptom of another conditions like hypothyroidism or extreme dehydration caused by diarrhea or nausea.

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