Potassium is an important nutrient for human health, which performs functions of regulating the fluid levels in the body. Its deficiency can cause serious health complications. Scroll down to learn about the potassium deficiency symptoms in men.
Potassium is an electrolyte that aids the human body in muscle contraction, nerve and heart function, and fluid balance regulation in the body. The normal potassium level is 3.6 to 5 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). The recommended intake for an adult is 4.7 grams per day. Athletes are advised to increase their intake, as they lose a lot of fluid while training, and eating potassium rich foods is advised over consumption of supplements. A very low potassium level, which is less than 2.5 mEq/L, will cause signs of deficiency to appear. The condition of deficiency in the body is a condition called hypokalemia.
The following are some common causes of potassium deficiency:
- Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
- Inadequate potassium intake, but this is a very rare cause.
- Certain medications like steroids, diuretics, and laxatives, as well as high blood pressure medicines and antibiotics.
- Excessive diarrhea, vomiting, and urination will flush out potassium from the body.
- Hormonal imbalances like hyperthyroidism.
- Chronic kidney diseases and adrenal gland disorders.
Symptoms and Effects
The parts of the body affected by hypokalemia are:
Heart: One of the first areas that display potassium deficiency symptoms in men, is the cardiovascular system. The heartbeat increases in speed (also called arrhythmias) and blood pressure levels start to rise. The heart rhythm and blood pressure levels may fluctuate from high to low. If the nutrient levels are dangerously low, there is a high risk of a cardiac arrest.
Muscular System: Muscle contraction is another symptom. Muscles start to cramp, especially in the legs. There is a feeling of weakness in the muscular system, as if your body does not want to move. Myalgia or muscular pain also occurs. Severely low potassium levels can cause deteriorated skeletal muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis) or muscle paralysis. Muscle tetany, where the muscles go into an involuntary state of contraction for some time, is another extreme symptom.
Respiratory System: Due to weakness in the muscles, paralysis of the lungs can occur, leading to impaired breathing.
Neurological System: Potassium helps your nerves transmit signals to and from the brain. A deficiency leads to disturbance in the neural activity, and hence you start feeling confused and dazed. A constant feeling of thirst is a noted effect of this activity.
Other potassium deficiency symptoms in men are:
- Feeling exhausted and lack of energy
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty in breathing
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Dizziness and fainting, especially when trying to stand
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- Reflexes are slow or absent
- Abnormally dry skin
Treatment and Prevention
- If you exhibit any of the above symptoms, or use diuretics regularly, consult a physician. A blood test can be carried out to determine your potassium levels and see if a deficiency exists.
- Make sure potassium rich foods are part of your diet. Include unprocessed foods like bananas, lean meats, peanuts, almonds, and orange juice.
- Take supplements to help increase the intake, with a doctor’s supervision and guidance.
- Make sure your bowel and urination habits are regular.
- Male athletes should take special care, as muscle training and sweating reduces the amount of potassium in the body.
If you’ve observed any of the symptoms listed above, you must have noticed how mentally and physically tasking the signs are. Clearly a potassium deficiency has harmful and lasting effects on a man’s health. So follow a balanced diet and replenish your fluids, so that your potassium levels are ideal for a healthy life.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.