Though you don’t hear much about potassium every day, did you know that it is one of the seven essential macro-minerals (the others being calcium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur and chloride) your body needs?

On a daily basis, your body needs about 4,700mg of potassium, which, according to the WHO, most adults fall short of. [1, 2] Being an electrolyte, potassium maintains the water balance in your body and is crucial for regulating your blood pressure. Besides, it is also imperative for the healthy functioning of the brain, reducing chances of kidney stones, keeping your muscle mass intact and maintaining a healthy heart and nerve function.

A deficiency of potassium can be dangerous and can lead to hypokalemia, a condition in which the concentration of potassium in the blood is extremely low. [3]

But how do you know if you are suffering from a deficiency? Here are eight telltale signs.

1. Unexplained Fatigue
Potassium is crucial for each cell in your body, as it helps fight fatigue and gives them the energy they need to function properly. If you regularly feel tired, even though you are well-rested, it could be due to a lack of potassium in your diet.

2. High Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure spikes when your blood vessels are restricted, another reason that you need more potassium. Potassium relaxes your blood vessels and keeps your blood pressure in control, since it is an electrolyte. Speak to your doctor about how often you should get your blood pressure levels checked and what diet modifications you need if you suffer from high blood pressure.

3. Muscle Cramps
It is normal to experience muscle cramps when you have been working out a lot, but if you feel your muscles are always aching, it could be due to low potassium levels. It helps in the proper growth of your muscle tissues and also makes better use of the energy released during metabolism, strengthening your muscles and preventing cramps.

4. Fluctuating Heart Beat
A deficiency in potassium can cause sudden episodes of palpitations or a sudden increase in your heart beat. In addition, potassium helps your brain get the required amount of oxygen that can help lower the risk of a stroke.

5. Feeling Dizzy
If you are experiencing severe hypokalemia, it can significantly slow down your heartbeat, make you feel dizzy or cause fainting episodes.

6. Digestive Disorders
Potassium keeps your metabolism healthy, balances the fluids in your body and also retains a smooth digestion, preventing constipation, bloating or stomach pain.

7. Forgetfulness
A lack of potassium can affect the electrical conductivity of the brain, which could significantly affect memory and cognitive skills.

8. Stress
If you find yourself constantly worrying and stressing about everyday things, blame it on not getting enough potassium. This mineral is a known stress buster and balances your hormonal levels, including cortisol and adrenaline.

How To Add More Potassium To Your Diet

  • Include avocados, acorn squash, mushrooms, white beans, yogurt, salmon, tuna and mackerel in your diet.
  • Grab a banana for breakfast to keep those potassium levels up. One cup of banana contains 537 milligrams of potassium.
  • Dried apricots, prunes, raisins or peaches are loaded with potassium.
  • Have a baked potato each day with its skin intact. Potato skins are particularly rich in iron and potassium.
  • Add lots of leafy dark greens to your diet, such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard.

While you can increase your potassium levels with the help of a healthy diet, the following conditions can also cause a deficiency.

  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Kidney disease
  • Vomiting
  • Bulimia

Warning: Make sure you speak to your doctor about how much potassium you should consume on a daily basis if you have a kidney problem or are on medication for other health conditions. [4]

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page. Read more about Diseases & Conditions here.

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Reference:
1. What Are The Health Benefits of Potassium? Site http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287212.php  (Accessed on 21 Aug 2015)
2. Guideline: Potassium Intake for Adults and Children. Site http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/potassium_intake_printversion.pdf (Accessed on 21 Aug 2015)
3. Low Potassium: Hypokalemia. Site http://www.emedicinehealth.com/low_potassium/article_em.htm (Accessed on 21 Aug 2015)
4. Potassium in Diet. Site https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002413.htm (Accessed on 21 Aug 2015)

A pregnancy & babycare writer as well as wellness believer, Debolina is always trying to bring in health and wellness into her family’s, especially her kids’, lives. With a Master’s degree in English literature, she has worked with several mothercare and babycare brands. In her free time, she helps with campaigns that work towards promoting the health and well-being of women and babies. Her experiences as a mother help her talk about busy modern-day parenting and its changing trends.