Potassium, a vital mineral, plays a crucial role in regulating nerve and muscle functions, particularly the heartbeat. It is indispensable for maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body as well as the pH level. To fulfill these functions effectively, potassium levels in the blood must be maintained within the range of 3.5 to 5.5 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). The kidneys are instrumental in regulating potassium levels, preventing them from becoming excessively high or low, which can pose health risks.
Potassium is primarily sourced from the foods we consume. In individuals with healthy kidneys, excess potassium is excreted in urine to uphold optimal blood levels. Generally, low potassium levels (known as hypokalemia) are rare among those who maintain a nutritious diet. However, factors such as poor dietary intake, severe vomiting and diarrhea, and the use of specific medications like diuretics can lead to decreased potassium levels.