Potassium is an essential mineral called an electrolyte. It sends charges to the body causing cardiac, smooth muscle, and skeletal muscle contractions.
What Is a Normal Potassium Level
A normal potassium (K+) level is 3.5 to 5.0. Hypokalemia is the term for a low blood potassium level, while a high blood potassium level is called hyperkalemia.
Signs of a low potassium level may be weakness, lack of energy, stomach distress, leg cramps, irregular heartbeat and abnormal EKG results.
Signs of a high potassium level can be nausea, irregular heartbeat, and even cardiac death and loss of heartbeat. Potassium is filtered through the kidneys. Therefore, people with kidney failure are at a very high risk of high potassium levels.
The best source of potassium is fresh unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Multivitamins are also a safe source for most people. Supplemental potassium other than from a daily multivitamin should not be taken unless prescribed by a physician.
Medications That Alter Potassium Levels
Steroids, diuretics, insulin and digoxin all can lower potassium levels. Medications that can increase potassium levels are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, heparin, and blood pressure medications. Foods that are low in sodium may also be high in potassium.