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Let’s talk about potassium in relation to your cardiovascular system.
This post is based on a cool article called The New Guidelines for Potassium Replacement In Clinical Practice. It’s written by a group of cardiologists that formed the National Council on Potassium. In it, they show the importance of potassium for the cardiovascular system.
Here, I want to cover some of the summaries in what potassium can do.
In this article: -
- Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
- Causes of Potassium Deficiency
- Tying it Back to Heart Failure
- How Do You Get Potassium?
Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
First of all, if you have a potassium deficiency, the name of that disorder is hypokalemia. If you get a low potassium diagnosis, you can have many symptoms, including:
- High blood pressure: In fact, in most cases of high blood pressure, there is a potassium deficiency. The irony here is that they usually give you a diuretic to treat this high blood pressure, and most diuretics actually deplete potassium. So it becomes a never-ending blood pressure problem.
- Muscle cramps: Potassium is an electrolyte. Electrolytes are vital for electrical pulses throughout your body. That means they play an important role in maintaining normal muscular function, brain function, etc.
- Sugar cravings: Potassium helps you store sugar, and it’ll actually help you get rid of sugar cravings because the storage of glucose needs potassium.
- Constipation: Potassium is necessary for regular digestive function.
- High insulin: There’s a relationship between sugar, blood sugar, diabetes, and potassium. In fact, when you have enough potassium, the need for insulin goes down - so I always recommend potassium for my clients with diabetes.
- Muscle weakness: You can have this inexplicable muscle weakness and not know why. That’s because electrolytes are needed to help the muscles contract.
- Abnormal heartbeat: That’s also why you're at risk of developing an abnormal heartbeat with a hypokalemia diagnosis. The heart is a muscle. These abnormal heartbeats - for example, atrial fibrillation and arrhythmias - are a combination of deficiency in potassium and/or magnesium.
- Anxiety and insomnia: Again, potassium is something to calm you down. So if you’re doing, for example, a diet that doesn’t involve a lot of potassium, you run the risk of manifesting these symptoms.
- Renal problems: Having low potassium can also affect your kidney function. You can develop renal problems and create too much urine.
This is because potassium is super important for many normal day-to-day functions of the body. Specifically, it is intimately involved with:
- Muscle physiology
- Nerve physiology
- Cardiovascular physiology
So how could you possibly get a potassium deficiency?
Causes of Potassium Deficiency
Too much sodium
When you increase sodium, you naturally decrease potassium because they work together in the body. You’re supposed to have a 4:1 ratio of potassium to sodium - but most people have this ratio switched.
In fact, the average American consumes 3700 mg of sodium per day and only 1000 mg of potassium. This is where the problem is, and as long as your sodium intake is too high, you won’t be able to correct any issues with your potassium.
Magnesium is also necessary to keep potassium in the right balance. If you have a magnesium deficiency, it will affect your potassium - your cells will become more permeable, and you will excrete most of your potassium through your urine.
Magnesium is also necessary to keep potassium in the right balance. If you have a magnesium deficiency, it will affect your potassium - your cells will become more permeable, and you will excrete most of your potassium through your urine. s
If you want to get enough of these important minerals, you should be consuming between seven and ten cups of vegetables a day (which is about two large salads).
Let’s say you have a diagnosis of insulin resistance or diabetes.
You’re not going to be able to absorb potassium that well, and that’s why you can develop all sorts of edema and fluid issues. In fact, it takes potassium to heal any kind of insulin dysfunction or disease. You can almost correct insulin resistance and improve your blood sugars by taking potassium.
Cortisol is the stress hormone. It can increase with day-to-day stress, trauma, injury, surgery, etc. It can also increase from medications like prednisone, and elevated cortisol levels can really deplete your potassium.
If you have a high-stress lifestyle or you’re taking steroid medications, you need to find a way to decrease your cortisol and regulate your stress response.
Diarrhea and vomiting
If you get the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you’ll likely experience diarrhea and vomiting. This can also deplete potassium levels - and really all vitamins and minerals - to a certain degree.
Luckily, this is usually a short-term issue, and it can be quickly remedied if you maintain a healthy, vegetable-rich diet
This is when your body is just too alkaline. Now, you may have been taught that you need to alkalize the body and that existing in an alkaline state is a good thing - but this is wrong!
When you go through a lot of stress and you have high levels of cortisol, your pH naturally becomes excessively alkaline - that’s called alkalosis.
One of the symptoms of alkalosis is potassium deficiency.
If you undergo major surgery, like abdominal surgery, you always have to watch your potassium levels.
Potassium can go down when you’re in surgery, and if you’re already deficient in potassium, this can create some serious problems with the heart.
That’s why doctors will often put potassium in your IV. If this is something that you’re concerned about, you can ask your doctor about your options.
When you go through intense stress, it spikes adrenaline. Adrenaline will also decrease potassium.
Low hydrochloric acid
When you don’t have enough acid in your stomach, you can’t properly absorb potassium and you can develop problems.
Potassium can also help the stomach digest and help create normal amounts of stomach acid. In other words, low potassium levels can help create low hydrochloric acid, but adding acid back in can help resolve any acid problems.
Drinking too much water
Water is not necessarily filled with electrolytes, and it can dilute your system if you drink too much.
That’s why if you take too much water, you can deplete the last little bit of potassium that you have. Then you end up with all sorts of dehydration problems because your electrolytes are depleted.
This, as we mentioned, is another cause of potassium deficiency.
In this article, then, these doctors are recommending potassium to prevent and even correct a lot of the cardiovascular diseases. Overall, potassium has the potential to:
- Keep your arteries elastic
- Decrease the risk of stroke
- Protect the kidney
- Protect the heart
Tying it Back to Heart Failure
So how does this all tie back to heart failure and heart disease? Well, we’ve discussed in detail how electrolytes and potassium are necessary in order to maintain proper muscular function.
The heart is the most important muscle in the body. The cells of the heart contract in response to the movement of potassium and sodium across their membranes. If you don’t have enough of either, you risk developing major irregularities. Specifically, you can go into cardiac arrest or have a full-blown heart attack, otherwise known as myocardial infarction.
Alternatively, your heart can pump inefficiently, which is chronic heart failure. With chronic HF, your heart is working, but not well enough to keep you healthy.
In many cases, doctors do prescribe potassium to solve this problem. In fact, there’s a whole diet - the heart failure diet - that focuses specifically on improving potassium levels to fix heart problems.
If you have heart concerns or think you're at risk, this is something to talk to your physician about.
How Do You Get Potassium?
Even if you’re not dealing with heart failure or major health concerns, you should make sure that you’re getting enough potassium in your diet.
The easiest way to get more potassium is to increase your salad to seven to ten cups of salad.
Because it takes that much potassium, and we need a lot - like 4700 milligrams of potassium a day. Potassium is also good for rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory conditions.
As you can see, this mineral is vital.
For more information on nutrition, health, and how to create a healthy body, check out my website at drberg.com. I’ll see you there.
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.