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Potassium Levels in Humans

Potassium Levels in Humans

Potassium performs a lot of key functions in the human body. But what are the normal levels of potassium in humans? Here's an article on the permissible levels of the same in human beings.
Arjun Kulkarni
We all know about the 'essential minerals' required for the body, and potassium is one of them. It performs a range of functions in our body, including maintaining the rhythm of the heart, controlling the nerve impulses, and the muscles.

Potassium also helps in controlling various enzymatic reactions, and the metabolism of carbohydrates. Along with all this, it also works as a part of the sodium-potassium pump in the body that looks after cell functioning. They work to help nutrients enter the cells and dispose what is waste matter. Thus, we can see that it is important to maintain optimum levels of this mineral in the body.

Normal Potassium Levels
Potassium levels are measured in a unit known as milliEquivalents per Liter or (mEq/L). So in this unit, the normal potassium level is prescribed to be 3.5 - 5.0 mEq/L.

If it is higher than this, it is known as a condition called hyperkalemia. A level lower than this is called hypokalemia.

Changes in the level of potassium in your blood may be due to hormonal changes, severe vomiting, changes in the functioning of the kidney, and lowered consumption of potassium-rich foods. Let us look at these problems and their symptoms.

Hypokalemia is a condition where the potassium level in the blood is lower than normal. In people with hypokalemia, the level is less than 3.5 mEq/Liter.

The symptoms of hypokalemia include abnormal heart rhythms (known as dysrhythmias), a breakdown of muscle fibers (known as rhabdomyolysis), fatigue, muscle weakness, and constipation.

To correct this problem, you can get potassium supplements as recommended by your doctor, or consume foods rich in potassium. It is very necessary to get hypokalemia diagnosed early. Severe cases of drop in potassium levels in blood may be fatal.

The other problem is hyperkalemia, which is marked by abnormally high potassium levels. Normally, when the level is between 5.1 and 6.0 mEq/Liter, it is known as mild hyperkalemia, between 6.1 and 7.0 mEq/Liter is moderate hyperkalemia, and above 7 is known as severe hyperkalemia, which is potentially fatal.

What causes this is well-researched, and there are said to be several causes. Usually, potassium is supposed to stay within the cells and not come into the blood stream. But due to destruction of certain tissues, the potassium in the cells may enter the blood stream, raising its level in the blood.

The symptoms of hyperkalemia are hardly ever apparent until the potassium levels in blood reach 7.0 mEq/liter. Mostly, the symptoms of hyperkalemia are very common and are not distinctive enough to be diagnosed as symptoms of that condition in particular.

If your potassium levels go up, you experience muscle weakness, nausea, fatigue, and a tingling sensation. In more severe cases, you may also experience a slow heartbeat and a weak pulse.

To diagnose hyperkalemia, it is essential to get a blood test done regularly. In case you have hyperkalemia, you can consume foods that are low in potassium.

So this was all about potassium levels and what happens when they go above or below the normal level. I repeat, it is essential to get a regular blood check-up done to keep an eye on your levels of this mineral. The problems caused due to level imbalance may prove fatal.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.
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