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Potassium
Overview

Potassium is an electrolyte (a substance that maintains your body's fluid levels), this mineral helps regulate blood pressure and heart function. Research shows that increasing your potassium intake can lower your blood pressure. Those individuals with existing hypertension, as well as those just looking to keep their blood pressure in check, can benefit from potassium.

A Harvard study showed that men who took a potassium supplement with a diuretic decreased their incidence of stroke by 60 percent, compared to men who did not. Potassium neutralizes acids and restores alkaline salts to the bloodstream. Potassium works with sodium in all cells including at nerve synapses to maintain or restore membrane potentials and to assist in metabolic processes. Potassium is critical to our cardiovascular and nerve functioning, regulating the transfer of nutrients into cells and facilitating muscle energy.

Potassium also regulates water balance and assists recuperative powers. Potassium aids rheumatic or arthritic conditions (causing acids to leave the joints and ease stiffness). Potassium is crucial for the elimination of wastes. Potassium is a natural pain desensitizer. Potassium helps control convulsions, headaches and migraines, promotes faster healing of cuts, bruises and other injuries and generally contributes to a sense of well being. Potassium is stored in the muscles. Body builders use a "potassium load" to give their muscles more energy but there is no scientific proof of its effectiveness.

Potassium naturally wants to bind to something to form a potassium compound. Since the human body is very inefficient at breaking down compound minerals, only a small percentage of the Potassium we consume actually gets used. To be utilized, Potassium must be in elemental form. The Potassium molecule needs be small enough to enter an individual cell, and it must be inside a water molecule.

What is Potassium ?
Potassium, the third most abundant mineral in human body, is the synonym for health insurer. It contains the qualities for maintaining a high level of human well-being and a cheerful lifestyle. There is no way one should overlook the inclusion of potassium in routine diet plan. Apart from acting as an electrolyte, this mineral is required for keeping heart, brain, kidney, muscle tissues and other important organs of human body in good condition. Potassium chloride is the main variety of this mineral amongst others. It works in association with sodium to perform a number of critical body tasks.
The health benefits of potassium include stroke, blood pressure, anxiety and stress, muscular strength, metabolism, heart and kidney disorders, water balance, electrolytic functions, nervous system and other general health benefits of potassium.

Deficiency Symptoms
Deficiency of any nutrient in the body is not desirable and potassium is not an extension in this case. A diet deficient in potassium may lead to symptoms like fatigue and weakness in muscles. Other indications for deficiency of potassium include inactive reflexes, abnormal heartbeat, heart palpitations, anemia and severe headaches. The person may also experience high blood pressure, pain in intestine, swelling in glands and diabetes as serious effects of this deficiency.

Where it is found
A variety of foods (fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, nuts, poultry) contain this mineral. Bananas are popularly known as a good source -- they contain 400 mg each -- but other food sources are even richer such as:

arw Lima beans (1 cup) 1000 mg


arw Cantaloupe (half a 5-inch melon) 975 mg


arw Fresh orange juice (1 cup) 975 mg


arw Potato (medium-sized) 900 mg


arw Almonds (4 oz) 786 mg


arw Whole milk (1 cup) 675 mg


arw Salmon (4 oz) 470 mg


arw Chicken (4 oz) 410 mg
 
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Benefits / uses
Many people today are concerned with becoming healthier. Whether you choose to watch what you eat or exercise regularly, there are many benefits to leading a healthier lifestyle. When you eat right and take care of your body, you may find that you have more energy throughout the day, that you are sick less often, and that you have a greater sense of well-being. Achieving this goal does not have to be difficult – it does not even have to take months or years of hard work. There are some simple changes you can make in your life to better your health. By including potassium rich foods in your everyday diet, you can enjoy a variety of health benefits. From lower blood pressure to relief from stress and anxiety, maintaining adequate levels of potassium in your system can be an easy way to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

Blood Pressure
People who suffer from hypertension and those with high blood pressure, or those who simply want to keep their blood pressure in check, can benefit from adding some potassium to their diet. Potassium helps to reverse the role of sodium in unbalancing normal blood pressure, thus lowering or stabilizing blood pressure. In order to receive this health benefit all you need to do is consume potassium rich foods, specifically those which are high in potassium citrate like citrus fruit, leafy greens, fish, legumes, tomatoes, poultry, and whole-grain cereals.

Anxiety and Stress
Potassium is important for maintaining electrical conductivity of the brain and is used in neural transmission. Those who suffer from undesired mental states such as stress, anxiety, and depression may find that increasing intake of potassium may result in an improvement in mood or relief of stress. Potassium deficiency can lead to increased anxiety and irritability, so even if you do not already suffer from these afflictions adding some potassium rich foods to your diet can help you to maintain balance and a positive mood.

Energy
Deficiencies in potassium can lead to fatigue and muscle weakness, so consuming potassium rich foods can ensure that you will be well-supplied with energy and that your body will make more efficient use of nutrients. Potassium plays an important role in synthesizing proteins and in metabolizing glucose and glycogen which are the prime sources of your body’s energy. Low levels of potassium results in the inability to process these energy sources, thus leaving you achy and fatigued.

Muscle Problems
Restless leg syndrome and muscles spasms are often precluded by low levels of potassium because this mineral helps to regulate muscle contractions. Having too little potassium in your system can result in muscle twitches or spasms, even charley-horses and conditions like restless leg syndrome which can result in loss of sleep and general feelings of discomfort. By increasing your consumption of potassium rich foods you can avoid these afflictions and ensure the proper function of your muscles.

Stroke
Potassium is instrumental in preserving the function of the brain by maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and cellular integrity. Stroke, hypertension, and several other serious conditions are often found to be accompanied by low levels of potassium. By consuming potassium rich foods you can reduce your risk of stroke and help to maintain the proper function of your body and all of its essential elements.

Doses

Pediatric
Infants birth - 6 months: 500 mg or 13 mEq
Infants 7 months - 12 months: 700 mg or 18 mEq
Children 1 year: 1,000 mg or 26 mEq
Children 2 - 5 years: 1,400 mg or 36 mEq
Children 6 - 9 years: 1,600 mg or 41 mEq
Children over 10 years: 2,000 mg or 51 mEq

Adult
2,000 mg or 51 Meq, including for pregnant and nursing women

Possible Side effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions:
High potassium intake (several hundred milligrams at one time in tablet form) can produce stomach irritation. People using potassium-sparing drugs should avoid using potassium chloride containing products, such as Morton Salt Substitute, No Salt, Lite Salt, and others and should not take potassium supplements, except under the supervision of a doctor.
People with hyperkalemia or kidney disease should not take potassium supplements.

When To Take/Types To Take
Potassium supplements are best taken with a meal.
Various forms of potassium are available. These include potassium acetate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium chloride, potassium citrate, potassium gluconate, potassium phosphate. Any of these are acceptable forms of potassium.

Research studies / References

arw Alappan R, Perazella MA, Buller GK, et al. Hyperkalemia in hospitalized patients treated with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Ann Intern Med. 1996;124(3):316-320.


arw Appel LJ. Nonpharmacologic therapies that reduce blood pressure: a fresh perspective. Clin Cardiol. 1999;22(Suppl. III):III1-III5.


arw Apstein C. Glucose-Insulin-Potassium for acute myocardial infraction: remarkable results from a new prospective, randomized trial. Circ. 1998;98:2223-2226.


arw Apstein CS, Opie Lh. Glucose-insulin-potassium (GIK) for acute myocardial infarction: a negative study with a positive value. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1999;13(3):185-189.


arw Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Hernan MA, et al. Intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and risk of stroke among U.S. men. Circ. 1998;98:1198-1204.


arw Brancati FL, Appel LJ, Seidler AJ, Whelton PK. Effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure in African Americans on a low-potassium diet. Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:61-72.


arw Brater DC. Effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on renal function: focus on cyclooxygenase-2-selective inhibition. Am J Med. 1999;107(6A):65S-70S.


arw Burgess E, Lewanczuk R, Bolli P, et al. Lifestyle modifications to prevent and control hypertension. 6. Recommendations on potassium, magnesium and calcium. Canadian Hypertension Society, Canadian Coalition for High Blood Pressure Prevention and Control, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control at Health Canada, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. CMAJ. 1999;160(9 Suppl):S35-S45.


arw Cappuccio EP, MacGregor GA. Does potassium supplementation lower blood pressure? A meta-analysis of published trials. J Hypertens. 1991;9:465-473.