Some Things You May Not Know About Normal Potassium Levels
Having a normal potassium level is important for many functions of the body such as muscle and nerve activity. Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte. It helps to keep the amount of water inside and outside of a cell balanced. Potassium is also used to help the cell membrane return to a resting state once an action is completed. If you do not have the normal potassium levels that your body needs to function properly, it may be difficult for the cell membrane to engage in action. This is called hypokalemia and it can create difficulties for you.
Potassium levels within the body are often times related to sodium that is also in your body. If the sodium levels in your body go up, then the normal potassium in your body will go down. The opposite occurs if the sodium levels in your body do down. Normal potassium is also affected by the hormone aldosterone that is produced by your adrenal glands. The foods that you eat and the amount of exercise that you get can also have an effect on your potassium. Foods that are high in potassium include scallops, potatoes, figs, bananas, orange juice, prune juice and squash. However, eating a balanced diet will not usually cause your potassium levels to be high.
When your potassium level is higher than normal it is called hyperkalemia. You can have a test done to see if you have a normal potassium level within your blood. This test is usually conducted along with other blood tests that may be ordered by your doctor. The normal potassium level for an adult is 3.5 to 5.5 mEq per liter. There are several reasons why this level may be higher than normal. For example, you may have difficulties with your kidneys or your adrenal glands. You may also have internal bleeding somewhere. Please be advised that certain medications may also result in the body holding too much potassium.
Tissue damage can also cause the bodies cells to release potassium. Types of tissue damage that may cause this include burns as well as different types of disorders that may cause the blood cells to burst. Surgery, traumatic injuries or tumors may have the same effect on the potassium levels in the body. Rhabdomyolysis will break down muscle fibers and will release the muscle fiber contents into the bloodstream resulting in an increase in this mineral. Gastrointestinal bleeding may be the problem that needs to be corrected. This can be very serious because the amount of bleeding can range from nearly undetectable to life threatening.
There are also reasons why your potassium levels may be lower than they should be. For instance, if you have been sick and you have been vomiting or diarrhea your level may be low. Certain medications can cause this as well. If you are taking water pills you may be losing potassium. This can also indicate a problem with your kidneys, liver, heart, or adrenal glands.
Please remember that if your potassium is high or low there can be serious problems. Because of the potassium levels, you may suffer from certain symptoms. Your muscles may cramp or feel very weak. You could also need to go to the restroom frequently. This could result in dehydration. You may feel irritable or confused. You could also feel confused, suffer from low blood pressure or even become paralyzed. If you are noticing any of these symptoms you may want to consult your physician in order to have blood tests done to determine your potassium level. It is always better to be cautious than to wait until something bad happens.