March 11, 2013

Nutrients - Potassium


Potassium is a mineral that the body needs to work normally. It helps nerves and muscles communicate. It also helps move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells. A diet rich in potassium helps to offset some of sodium's harmful effects on blood pressure. Most people get all the potassium they need from what they eat and drink.

Too much sodium as is common in Western diets that use a lot of salt, may increase the need for potassium. Diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, malnutrition, malabsorption syndromes (such as Crohn's disease) can also cause potassium deficiency, as well as use of a kind of heart medicine called loop diuretics, mainly furosemide.

This test measures the amount of potassium in the blood. Potassium is an electrolyte that is vital to cell metabolism and muscle function. Potassium, along with other electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, and bicarbonate (total CO2), helps regulate the amount of fluid in the body, stimulates muscle contraction, and maintains a stable acid-base balance. Potassium is present in all body fluids, but most potassium is found within your cells. Only about 2% is present in fluids outside the cells and in the liquid part of the blood (called serum or plasma). Because the blood concentration of potassium is so small, minor changes can have significant consequences. If potassium levels are too low or too high, there can be serious health consequences; a person may be at risk for developing shock, respiratory failure, or heart rhythm disturbances. An abnormal potassium level can alter the function of neuromuscular tissue; for example, the heart muscle may lose its ability to contract.

Why Get Tested?
To determine whether your potassium level is within normal limits and to help evaluate an electrolyte imbalance; to monitor chronic or acute hyperkalemia or hypokalemia

When to Get Tested?
As part of a routine medical exam, when you have symptoms such as weakness and/or cardiac arrhythmia, or when an electrolyte imbalance is suspected; at regular intervals when you are taking a medication and/or have a disease or condition, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) or kidney disease, that can affect your potassium level

Recommended Daily Allowance
  1. Infants birth - 6 months: 400 mg/day
  2. Infants 7 months - 12 months: 700 mg/day
  3. Children 1 -3 years: 3 grams (3,000 mg)/day
  4. Children 4 - 8 years: 3.8 grams (3,800 mg)/day
  5. Children 9 - 13 years: 4.5 grams (4,500 mg)/day
  1. Adults 19 years and older: 4.7 grams (4,700 mg)/day
  2. Pregnant women: 4.7 grams (4,700 mg)/day
  3. Breastfeeding women: 5.1 grams (5,100 mg)/day

An important note – other than the small amount included in a multivitamin. Never take potassium supplements except under a doctor's guidance. Do not give potassium supplements to a child unless your doctor prescribes it.

Food Sources
Good sources of potassium include bananas, citrus juices (such as orange juice), avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, lima beans, flounder, salmon, cod, chicken, and other meats. By far the most well known source of potassium is the banana.

With potassium it is always wise to have a conversation with you doctor and only take potassium with the supervision of your doctor. This is one supplement that has more dangers than positives.

Possible Interactions
If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use potassium without first talking to your health care provider.
Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors: These drugs, including benazepril, captopril, enalapril, fosinopril, lisinopril, moeexipril, perdinodopril, quinapril, ramipril, trandolapril, may increase the risk of hyperkaleimia.
Angiotensin Receptor Blockers: Increased risk of hyperkalemia.
Potassium Sparing Diuretics: These drugs, including amiloride, triamterene, spironolactone, may increase the risk of hyperkalemia.
Indomethacin: May increase the risk of hyperkalemia.
The following medications may cause potassium levels to rise:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): People who have poor kidney function and take NSAIDs are at higher risk.
  • ACE inhibitors: These drugs treat high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, some chronic kidney diseases, migraines, and scleroderma. People who take ACE inhibitors and NSAIDs, potassium sparing diuretics, or salt substitutes may be particularly vulnerable to hyperkalemia (too much potassium). A rise in potassium from ACE inhibitors may also be more likely in people with poor kidney function and diabetes. ACE inhibitors include:
    • Benazepril (Lotensin)
    • Captopril (Capoten)
    • Enlapril (Vasotec)
    • Fosinopril (Monopril)
    • Lisinopril (Zestril)
    • Moexipril (Univasc)
    • Peridopril (Aceon)
    • Ramipril (Altace)
    • Trandolapril (Mavik)
  • Heparin (used for blood clots)
  • Cyclosporine (used to suppress the immune system)
  • Trimethoprimand sulfamethoxazole, called Bactrim or Septra (an antibiotic)
  • Beta-blockers: Used to treat high blood pressure, glaucoma, migraines
    • Atenolol (Tenormin)
    • Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
    • Propranolol (Inderal)
The following medications may cause potassium levels to decrease:
  • Thiazide diuretics
    • Hydrochlorothiazide
    • Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
    • Indapamide (Lozol)
    • Metolzaone (Zaroxolyn)
  • Loop diuretics
    • Furosemide (Lasix)
    • Bumetanide (Bumex)
    • Torsemide (Demadex)
    • Ethacrynic acid (Edecrin)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Amphotericin B (Fungizone)
  • Antacids
  • Insulin
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan): Used to treat fungal infections
  • Theophylline (TheoDur): Used for asthma
  • Laxatives”
If you are taking any of these medications, it is important for your doctor to test your potassium levels to see whether or not you need a supplement. Do not start taking a supplement on your own.

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