Potassium and Its Powerful Importance to Our Health

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

The term “potash” in English is where the word “potassium” originates from. The Latin phrase kalium and the Arabic word qali, meaning alkali, are the sources of the letter K, which stands for Potassium. Two potassium compounds known to man since the dawn of time are ash and alkali. Potassium has a valence of 1, making it a highly reactive metal. Element number 19 is the eighth most plentiful element in the human body, making up 0.20% and 0.35% of total body mass. It is the seventh most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.

Pure Potassium is a lightweight silvery metal that can be cut with a knife. It is typically kept beneath oil or petroleum since it oxidizes so fast in the air and reacts in water to create hydrogen, which may be ignited from the heat of the reaction. Although the metal appears silver when fresh, it loses so quickly that it typically appears dull grey. After lithium, Potassium is the second-lightest (least dense) metal.

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Food that Contains Potassium

The Relationship between Potassium and Sodium

While sodium and Potassium are closely related, their physiological effects are entirely contradictory. These vital nutrients are essential for preserving physiological equilibrium and have been associated with an increased risk of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease. High potassium consumption can assist in relaxing blood vessels and help the body eliminate sodium while lowering blood pressure. In contrast, high salt intake raises blood pressure and can contribute to heart disease.

Diets high in sodium and deficient in Potassium increase the risk of death from heart attacks and other causes in people.

 A study showed that people who consume more potassium had a 20% decreased chance of dying. It is possible that the relationship between sodium and potassium in the diet is much more significant for health. Reduce processed foods and increase fresh fruits and vegetables to reduce risk.

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Children are Holding The Word of Potassium

Potassium and Health

Cardiovascular disease

The most precise approach for determining a person’s salt consumption is to measure 24 urine samples for several days. Data from 10,709 healthy adults were combined using this method by Harvard researchers. They collected two or more urine samples from each participant. First, they looked at sodium and potassium intakes concerning the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) (as indicated by a heart attack, stroke, or procedure or surgery needed to repair heart damage). After adjusting for CVD risk variables, they discovered that consuming more salt was linked to higher CVD risk.

There was an 18% higher risk of CVD for every 1,000 mg rise in urine sodium daily. Yet the incidence of CVD decreased by 18% for every 1,000 mg increase in Potassium.

Also, they found a relationship between a higher risk of CVD and eating more salty meals than potassium-rich foods such fruits, vegetables, legumes, and low-fat dairy products.

Hypertension

Large-scale observational studies of people have found a link between blood pressure and dietary sodium and Potassium. One dietary pattern that puts certain people at risk for hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the tendency of many Americans to consume salty foods and not enough Potassium. The same research discovered that Potassium, either from a more significant consumption of fruits and vegetables or with a potassium supplement, had a blood pressure-lowering impact in persons with normal blood pressure.

Based on clinical trials and cohort studies, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published a study on salt and Potassium’s impact on the risk of developing chronic diseases. They discovered that substituting table salt with potassium salt replacements and taking potassium supplements (daily doses ranging from 782 to 4,692 mg) significantly lowered blood pressure compared to a dummy, notably in people with hypertension. Nevertheless, the evidence for their impact on reducing the overall risk of hypertension, kidney stones, and cardiovascular illnesses, including stroke and kidney disease, needed to be more comprehensive or consistent.

Higher potassium intakes (from food and supplements) lowered blood pressure in people with hypertension. Increased potassium intake reduces stroke risk by 24%. Potassium intake has an inverse dose-response relationship with the risk of stroke.

Bone Health

One of the most crucial minerals for healthy bones is calcium. When the body loses more calcium than it absorbs, a condition known as “negative calcium balance” can result in bone loss. This most frequently occurs in people with digestive issues that prevent calcium absorption, who have diets that are too low in calcium or vitamin D, or both. Too much calcium may be lost in the urine of people with thyroid or kidney issues.

A high dietary acid load, such as that brought on by a high meat and low fruit/vegetable intake, may result in a bone loss if calcium is taken from bones to assist in neutralizing the acid, according to another hypothesis known as “acid-base balance” or “acid-alkaline theory.” It is thought that the body produces acid due to the breakdown of animal proteins and cereals rich in phosphorus and sulphates. This results in the kidneys excreting acid and calcium in the urine.

Since they include substances that may be converted into bicarbonate, which helps neutralize acids in the body and protect bone, potassium-rich meals may have a buffering, “alkalinizing” effect. In addition, observational studies have discovered a link between increased bone density and high potassium consumption from fruits and vegetables. Nevertheless, observational studies have not demonstrated that high protein consumption harms bone health or fracture risk; on the contrary, a greater protein intake in the elderly protects against fractures. Thus yet, the acid-alkaline theory of bone health needs to be clarified.

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A Doctor is Showing A skeleton to a Child

It has been discovered that the high-potassium DASH diet, which is full of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, reduces the indicators of bone turnover. Nevertheless, besides Potassium, other DASH dietary components (low sodium, high calcium) may also have a role in this outcome. Furthermore, active plant compounds and polyphenols in fruits and vegetables may also contribute to bone health, according to animal studies.

Increased potassium consumption from supplements has not consistently been associated with a reduction in bone fractures or an increase in bone mineral density in postmenopausal women receiving potassium supplements.

A medical report concluded that foods high in Potassium might contain some elements that may improve bone mineral density, such as bicarbonate production. However, these foods may also have other nutrients and plant chemicals that are good for bone health, making it difficult to conclude that Potassium alone affects bone health.

Kidney Stones

A diet high in Potassium helps in the prevention of calcium from being released from bone into the blood and from being eliminated in the urine. Calcium that is not reabsorbed is expelled in the urine, which may raise the possibility of crystals developing that might result in kidney stones.

According to an analysis of three major prospective cohort studies, higher potassium consumption was linked to a decreased incidence of kidney stones in all three cohorts. In addition, the increased consumption was particularly attached to increased urinary citrate concentration and volume (due to increased water intake from fruits and vegetables), all of which are protective against stones.

The American College of Physicians and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reviewed randomized controlled studies that examined medical therapy to avoid recurrent kidney stones. The review discovered that when persons with previous kidney stones increased their consumption of Potassium with potassium citrate supplements and simultaneously increased their fluid intake, they significantly reduced their chance of developing new kidney stones.

Deficiency

excess Potassium is removed from The kidneys’ body through urination to maintain appropriate blood levels of Potassium. Stool and sweating are other ways that Potassium can be lost. Due to typical daily losses, at least 400–800 mg must be obtained by meals each day. A deficit known as hypokalemia can result from circumstances that cause more fluid loss than usual, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and some drugs like lasix. Hospitalized individuals receiving drugs that make their bodies drain too much Potassium are most likely to develop hypokalemia.

Diarrhea and nutritional deficiency can result from it in those who have inflammatory disease diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Since Potassium is present in so many foods, it is uncommon for a deficiency to be brought on by inadequate dietary intake alone. However, if this deficiency is accompanied by excessive sweating, the use of medications, the abuse of laxatives, or severe nausea and vomiting, hypokalemia can develop very quickly. A lack of magnesium is another factor, as the kidneys require magnesium to reabsorb Potassium and keep cell levels regular.

Weakness or muscle cramps; fatigue; constipation; muscle paralysis; and an irregular heartbeat (with severe hypokalemia) are all symptoms of Potassium toxicity.

Toxicity

Hyperkalemia is the medical term for an excess of Potassium in the blood. In healthy individuals, the kidneys effectively eliminate excess Potassium, primarily through the urine. Hyperkalemia, however, can result from many conditions, including advanced kidney disease, taking drugs that cause the body to retain Potassium (such as NSAIDs), having compromised kidney function, eating a high-potassium diet (more than 4,700 mg per day), or using potassium-based salt substitutes. Hyperkalemia can cause symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, chest pain, and irregular heartbeats.

Overdose

Usually, a person can tolerate high potassium levels, which the kidneys eliminate. Nevertheless, if a person has kidney issues, excess Potassium, or hyperkalemia, it can be hazardous if their kidneys cannot eliminate enough Potassium from the body. In addition, if the levels increase fast, this can be hazardous.

When blood serum potassium levels exceed 5.1 to 6.0 mmol/l, doctors consider those values high. Therefore, professional monitoring is essential; any level greater than 6.0 mmol/l requires immediate care. Individuals with hyperkalemia may not or may have very few symptoms. However, if symptoms do occur, they are comparable to those of hypokalemia. Heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest discomfort are all symptoms of severe or abrupt hyperkalemia. The problem may already be life-threatening, necessitating quick medical intervention.

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