The elderly are the most susceptible group, with a higher incidence of potassium deficiency than the general population. Why are they more prone to have potassium deficiency? Potassium is an essential mineral found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables, but often its deficiency is not linked to low potassium intake. Instead, it is associated with other conditions such as malabsorption or digestive disorder like Crohn’s disease which affect the absorption of this mineral and others.
Hydration status and some medications may also affect potassium levels in the blood. Diuretics, which removes excess water from the body, may cause potassium deficiency as well. These situations make the person more prone to be potassium deficient, and they are all gathered in the elderly because the older they get, the more infectious and chronic diseases they get, and they will need more medication.
But again, potassium can be a very sensitive mineral, because when levels are too high or too low, it can affect our heart. Thus, it is essential to talk to your physician if there are any symptoms of potassium deficiency. As mentioned, potassium is in a lot of food, especially in bananas, citrus juices, beans and legumes.
What does potassium do and what benefit does it have?
Potassium provides many benefits to the body, and its function is based on opposing the action of sodium. To keep the body healthy, both minerals should be balanced.
› Boosts energy
It has an essential role in carbohydrate metabolism as it converts glucose to glycogen to be stored in the muscle as an energy reservoir. It has a significant role in building proteins out of amino acids as well, so the body can use them as a secondary source of energy.
› Protects the cells
Increasing water content inside the cells may cause cell death because of high levels of sodium. Potassium opposes this mechanism and expels the sodium out of the cells and into the blood, which draws water out along with sodium.
› Maintains Normal blood pressure
Potassium competes with sodium resorption in the kidney. Increasing potassium-rich food in your diet will increase its levels in the blood, leading to sodium excretion in the urine along with the water. This will be helpful to lower blood pressure.
› Supports bone health
Loss of bone minerals may result from an increase in the acidity of the blood. This mechanism can be solved with potassium because it helps neutralize the blood pH, protecting bone mass and preventing its loss.
› Strengthens muscle contraction
Muscle contraction is affected by many factors and minerals, and potassium is one of them. Potassium stimulates muscle contraction by stimulating mineral influx into the muscles to induce contraction, which includes calcium. It also helps to conduct nerve impulses to the muscles, which is required for muscle contraction.
› Protects the heart
The heart is considered a muscle, and as such, potassium supports its contraction and prevents the overload of this vital organ by maintaining the blood pressure at a healthy level.
› Prevents diabetes
Studies show that diabetes is correlated to low potassium levels.
› Elevates mood and brain functions
Potassium has an essential role in the transmission of nerve impulses by secreting chemical substances such as dopamine and serotonin. They are responsible for controlling our mood and other brain functions.
» Now, let’s discuss sources of potassium.