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Normal Potassium Levels

Normal Potassium Levels

Potassium is an essential mineral that is required for healthy muscles. This Buzzle write-up explains why maintaining normal potassium levels in the blood is essential for the healthy functioning of the human body.
Medha Godbole
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Potassium is one of the essential minerals that is needed to maintain optimal health. Almost 98% of potassium present in our body is found in the cells. Maintaining the balance of potassium and sodium is essential for the kidneys. High or low level of potassium can have an adverse effect on the kidneys. Therefore, it is essential to monitor its level to ensure that it is within the reference range.
Normal Levels of Potassium in Blood
Ideally, the level of potassium in the blood should be between 3.7 and 5.2 milliEquivalent/L. In case of children, the normal levels are between 3.4 and 4.7 mEq/L. This reference range may vary from one laboratory to another. For our heart muscle to function properly, potassium should be within the normal levels. If it is lower than the normal levels, there might be an adverse effect on heart contractions, which in turn could lead to an irregular heartbeat and slow pulse. In severe cases, it could lead to heart failure. Hence, to prevent cardiac problems, it is advisable to include the dietary sources of this mineral in one's diet.
Determining the Level
The level of potassium can be monitored through a blood test. However, the test results might not be accurate in the following scenarios:
If one has been taking potassium supplements
If one has been consuming laxatives on a regular basis
If one has been taking antibiotics, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, or other medicines for treating hypertension and heart problems
In case of severe vomiting
If the test result reveals low levels of potassium, an ECG should be conducted to check for irregularities in the contraction of heart muscle.
Implications of Abnormal Levels
Abnormal levels of potassium can result in hyperkalemia or hypokalemia. Hyperkalemia is characterized by excess potassium in blood (7.0 mEQ/l or higher). In extreme cases, it can lead to cardiac arrest and death. High levels also interfere and disturb the electrical rhythm of the heart. Hyperkalemia is often attributed to kidney dysfunction or problems related to the adrenal gland.
On the other hand, hypokalemia is characterized by low levels of potassium. The use of diuretics or corticosteroids, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive use of laxatives, Cushing's syndrome, renal tubular acidosis, low magnesium level in the body, etc., are some of the contributing factors for hypokalemia. This condition could give rise to symptoms such as muscle ache, cramps, and weakness.
Consumption of bananas, green leafy vegetables, and legumes can prove beneficial for those affected by hypokalemia, as these are good sources of potassium. However, it is best to seek medical assistance if the level of potassium in blood is lower than the reference range.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.