Importance of Potassium


Potassium is one of the seven essential macrominerals [calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur]. The Adequate Intake recommendation for potassium is 4,700 milligrams (mg) per day for adults. Most adults do not meet this recommendation. Potassium is present in all body tissue and is required for normal cell function.


A high potassium intake reduces the risk of overall mortality by 20 percent. It also decreases the risk of stroke, lowers blood pressure, protects against loss of muscle mass, preserves bone mineral density, and reduces the formation of kidney stones. Potassium deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, and constipation. It can escalate to paralysis, respiratory failure, and painful gut obstructions.


Certain diuretics (e.g., thiazide diuretics) that are commonly used to treat high blood pressure increase urinary potassium excretion and can cause hypokalemia (low potassium).

Likewise, certain foods, medicines and supplements can cause hyperkalemia (high potassium), causing serious heart problems.

Both conditions can be harmful to your health.


Certain conditions can cause potassium deficiencies. These include:

  • kidney disease

  • overuse of diuretics

  • excessive sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting

  • magnesium deficiency

  • use of antibiotics, such as carbenicillin and penicillin

Signs of a potassium deficiency include:

  • extreme fatigue

  • muscle spasms, weakness, or cramping

  • irregular heartbeat

  • constipation, nausea, or vomiting


Hyperkalemia can happen if your kidneys don’t work properly and cannot remove potassium from your body or if you take certain medicines.

Conditions that can affect the kidney's ability to remove potassium from the body include:

  • Hormonal disorders

  • Lupus

  • Kidney failure

  • Other kidney diseases

  • Signs of too much potassium:

  • Tiredness or weakness

  • Feeling of numbness or tingling

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chest pains

  • Palpitations or irregular heartbeats.

Be certain to see your physician regarding the proper amount of potassium for you.


  • Fruits, such as apricots, bananas, kiwi, oranges, and pineapples

  • Vegetables, such as leafy greens, carrots, and potatoes

  • Lean meats

  • Whole grains

  • Beans and nuts

  • Tips for adding potassium foods to your healthy diet:

  • Add spinach or other leafy greens to your sandwiches.

  • Toss fresh or dried apricots into plain nonfat yogurt for a snack.

  • Enjoy a cup of low-sodium bean soup for lunch.

  • Eat a small baked potato or sweet potato instead of bread at dinner.

★ Call Missy Donaghy with Interiors for Seniors for a FREE consultation 321-279-3301.


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