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Why Your Blood Needs Potassium (Know The Benefits)

Potassium helps your blood move quickly throughout your body, which means your organs don’t have to work as hard.

If your potassium levels gets too low it can cause irregular heartbeat and lead to heart attack.

Did you know that your body needs a balance of potassium and sodium in order to function properly?.

Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, muscle contractions and aids in the production of protein.

In this article, you will know why your blood needs potassium and how this vital mineral can improve your health.

What does potassium do in your blood?

For humans, potassium (K) is an essential mineral nutrient. Within the body, it is the major cation in intracellular fluids, and performs many important functions such as:

  • Glucose and insulin metabolism
  • Hormone secretion
  • Control electrical activity of the heart
  • Mineral-corticoid action
  • Body growth and development
  • Activate enzymes
  • Metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins
  • Blood and fluid movements
  • Acid-base balance
  • Regulation of osmotic pressure
  • Conduction of nerve impulses

The importance of potassium to human health has been well recognized and new studies continue to emphasize it’s positive effects and potential use in public health.

For example, a high dietary intake of potassium has been shown to protect people from conditions that affects the cardiovascular system, kidneys, and bones.

As we go on to discuss more about potassium and it’s clinical benefits, we will also give you reasons why your blood needs this mineral nutrient.

Why Your Blood Needs Potassium (Know The Reasons)

Potassium has beneficial effects on your health and there are several reasons your blood needs this mineral nutrient.

1. Regulate Blood Pressure

There is a strong link between high sodium intake, inadequate potassium intake, and high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

Variations in potassium intake can significantly affect the relationship between sodium and blood pressure.

For adults with high blood pressure (hypertension), increasing dietary potassium can help lower blood pressure by helping to reduce the blood pressure-elevating effects of sodium.

Adequate potassium helps to lessen the tension in blood vessel walls, which can also help reduce blood pressure.

2. Reduce The Risks of Stroke

Research has shown that a higher sodium to potassium ratio leads to  an increased risk of ischemic stroke.

While the mechanisms are not fully understood, a diet that is adequate in potassium may help reduce the effects of dietary sodium, in turn resulting in lower blood pressure and reduced stroke risk.

3. Bone Health

Adequate intake of potassium may benefit both your bone health and bone mineral density.

One proposed mechanism of action is through it’s effects on acid-base balance.

Potassium-containing foods, such as banana, provides precursors to bicarbonate ions, which in turn helps in buffering acids in the body to maintain a neutral blood pH of 7.35 to 7.45.

If the diet is deficient in nutrients like potassium that help balance pH within this range, then the body may pull calcium from the bone.

But as dietary potassium intake increases, more calcium content is
preserved.

4. Kidney Function

Potassium also helps your kidneys function properly. When potassium is too low, calcium reabsorption within the kidneys may be impaired, increasing calcium excretion and potentially leading to high levels of calcium in the urine and, in more extreme cases, kidney stones.

High sodium intake can also be damaging to the kidneys and one way to remove all the excess sodium from the body is to increase your potassium intake, and must not go above the recommended daily intake.

5. Type 2 Diabetes

Potassium levels are highly regulated by the body but can be affected by the intake of dietary potassium. Low levels of potassium in the blood are linked to a high risk of diabetes.

Several proven studies have shown the link between low potassium levels and an increased risk of developing T2DM (type 2 diabetes).

For example, a large study of over 130,000 people found that those with the lowest potassium intake were 28% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with the highest intake.

There are several mechanisms by which low potassium may increase the risk of diabetes. One possibility is that low potassium levels impair insulin secretion.

When potassium levels are low, insulin secretion is reduced, which leads to high blood sugar levels.

Another possibility is that low levels of potassium increases insulin resistance.

When insulin resistance is present, blood sugar levels tend to be higher.

Low levels of potassium may also increase inflammation, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

More research is needed to confirm the link between low potassium intake and diabetes risk.

But, the current evidence suggests that it is important to consume a diet that is rich in potassium-rich foods.

Source: Potassium and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies

What Foods Provides Potassium For The Blood?

Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods, including:

  • Apricots
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Broccoli
  • Honeydews
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes

Banana contains the highest amount of potassium and has a good pH.

Eating bananas everyday are good for your kidneys. One medium of banana provides about 422 mg of potassium and 105 kcal in standard portion.

For optimum health, people who fall between the ages of 20 to 30 years should consume 24 g of bananas to get 2400 mg of potassium for the blood, per the recommendations.

How much potassium do you need?

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 2013-2016, adult men who are 19 years and older eat and drink an average of 2,988 mg of potassium per day, while women of the same age consume an average of 2,323 mg potassium daily.

That is approximately 88% and 89% of the adequate intake of potassium for men and women respectively.

Below is an the recommended daily intake for potassium by age, sex and life stage.

Infants:

  • 0-6 months: 400 mg
  • 7-12 months: 860 mg

Children:

  • 1-3 years: 2,000 mg
  • 4-9 years: 2,300 mg

Males and Females:

  • 13 yrs: 2,300–2,400 mg
  • 14-18 yrs: 2,300–3,000 mg
  • 19-30 yrs: 2,600–3,400 mg
  • 31-50 yrs: 2,600–3,400 mg
  • 51-70 yrs: 2,600–3,400 mg
  • 70-80 yrs: 2,600–3,400 mg

Moms-to-Be:

  • Pregnant teens: 2,600 mg
  • Pregnant women: 2,900 mg
  • Lactating women: 2,800 mg

However, people with kidney disease or other health conditions may need to limit their potassium intake.

It is best to talk to your dietitian before making any changes to your diet.

How to get enough potassium in your diet

Since potassium is highly correlated with energy intake, people who eat more calories generally have higher amounts of potassium.

But, increasing calorie consumption as a means to increase potassium intake is not a beneficial population-wide recommendation.

It is well-known that most people living in America (U.S) already eat more calories regularly than needed.

Eating potassium-rich foods throughout the day is necessary to meet your daily recommendations.

For instance, standard portions of non-fat plain yogurt and bananas at breakfast, baked potato with wild atlantic salmon and avocado, plus one and half cups of non-fat milk during the day could help potassium intake reach 3,400 mg.

Are there any potassium supplements available?

Yes, potassium supplements are available and they come in different forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids, and powders.

Some common potassium supplements include:

  • Potassium Chloride. It’s the most common form of potassium supplement, that is also the most affordable and widely available.
  • Potassium Gluconate. It is often recommended for people who have difficulty swallowing tablets or capsules.
  • Potassium Bicarbonate. It’s used to treat stomach upset and diarrhea.
  • Potassium Aspartate. It is sometimes used to treat muscle cramps and fatigue.
  • Potassium Citrate. It’s used to treat kidney stones and other kidney problems.

If you are to choose the best potassium supplement, the citrate form is one that I highly recommend for you, and here’s why: 

  • Potassium Citrate – Is essential for a healthy blood pressure and muscle function.
    • Refined (pharmaceutical grade) potassium
    • Very high bioavailability
    • Supplies 220 mg Potassium per capsule

If you have difficulty swallowing capsules or tablets, there are powdered forms that you can also try as well.

  • Potassium Gluconate – Pure Powder, 1 lb (454 g)
    • Supports Electrolyte Balance and Normal pH
    • Proper Muscular Contraction
    • Non-GMO
    • A Dietary Supplement
    • Vegetarian/Vegan
  • Potassium Citrate – Pure Powder, 12 oz (340 g)

Tips for safely taking potassium supplements:

  • Take potassium supplements with food to help reduce stomach upset.
  • Avoid taking potassium supplements if you have kidney disease or Addison’s disease.
  • Do not take potassium supplements if you are taking other medications that increase your potassium levels, such as water pills (diuretics) or ACE inhibitors.
  • Be careful not to take too much potassium, as this can lead to irregular heart beat and muscle weakness.

You can take potassium supplement if you’re not getting the amount you need from the diet or unless it is recommended by your doctor.

What happens if you have low or high levels of potassium in your blood?

The proper level of potassium is essential for normal cell function.

An abnormal increase in potassium level is called hyperkalemia, whiles a decrease in potassium is hypokalemia.

These can affect your nervous system and heart, when extreme it can be fatal.

The normal blood potassium level is 3.5 to 5.0 milliequivalents/liter (mEq/L), levels below or higher than these normal levels are associated with increased rate of death of any cause.

Cardiac, kidney and lung diseases are elevated if serum potassium levels are not kept within the normal range.

Takeaway

Potassium is an essential mineral nutrient for normal cell function. Together with sodium, potassium is a key player in fluid homeostasis, with several health effects.

Potassium’s role in reducing high blood pressure is increasingly well documented.

Potassium sources include many other nutrients that may be helpful for the heart, cardiovascular, and general health.

Finally, eating of fruits, vegetables, dairy products, seafood, legumes, and taking potassium supplements, are all necessary to meet the recommended daily amounts of potassium per day.

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