Our body needs iron, protein, vitamins, sodium, potassium, and many other nutrients to live a healthy life. But it is supreme that nutrients like potassium are present in a balanced form. Having too much or too little potassium can put your life at risk. Follow this article to learn about the symptoms of low potassium in elderly and how to increase potassium.
Potassium is one of the few minerals that can help regulate a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, and cell activity. It is extremely essential for the tissues in your body and it is also responsible for the balanced functioning of your neurons. According to scientists, most of the time there is an electrical charge in the potassium that helps the cells and neurons inside a person’s body. But it is supreme that you have a balanced amount of potassium in your body, not too little nor too much.
When a person starts to intake more sodium than, they are increasing their chances of having low potassium because sodium works as the counterpart for potassium. Potassium helps in regulation of your blood pressure so if your body has low potassium then, your blood pressure can either get extremely low or extremely high which can be dangerous for you.
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Why is potassium important for you?
Potassium is an extremely important mineral that helps our body in more ways than once. Following are the reasons why healthcare professionals consider it an important element.
- Regulates fluid balance
- Nervous system
- Regulate muscle contractions
- Reduce blood pressure
- Prevent strokes
- Prevent kidney stones
- Prevent osteoporosis
- Reduce water retention
Regulates fluid balance:
60% of our body consists of water, even our cells have 40% water. It is important for our body to have a perfect balance of water so the cells can function properly. Potassium works as an electrolyte which ensures that there is a charge between cells and the neurons. Having a good level of potassium in your body will make sure that your bodily fluid is in perfect balance.
We know that the nervous system is like a network unit inside our body which sends and receives messages from the brain. The nervous system has billions of nerves that are connected to different parts of our body. All of this happens because of nerve impulses and if there is little to no potassium inside your body then, it will affect the nerve impulses which will directly affect the nervous system.
Regulate muscle contractions:
The nervous system is responsible for the movement of muscles and bones. But when the potassium is too low in a person that it starts affecting the nervous system then, you will also face difficulty in regulation of muscles. This will give you a high blood pressure and abnormal heart rate which is not a good thing for you.
Reduce blood pressure:
When your body is high on sodium then it will cause your blood pressure to rise. To make it come back to normal, healthcare professionals advise a person to intake a diet that is rich in potassium because it is the counter of sodium. Having potassium in your body will help regulate your blood pressure.
High blood pressure and muscle contraction can cause strokes which happens mainly because there is little to no potassium inside the body. Potassium is a great source for regulating your blood pressure and to make sure that your nervous system is working smoothly. Eating a diet filled with potassium can help you prevent strokes.
Prevent kidney stones:
According to research, calcium is found greatly in kidney stones that can block the urinary tract. Healthcare professionals say that aside from sodium, potassium also balances out the calcium in a person’s body and it can reduce the amount of calcium in their urine. Thus, preventing kidney stones.
Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones become hollow and it is linked with low calcium and potassium levels in a person’s body. When the calcium in your body is not reduced through urination because of potassium then, osteoporosis can be prevented.
Reduce water retention:
Water retention is something that happens when there is excess water inside your body. Having potassium in your body can help with water retention as it reduces the sodium levels in your body and produces more urine.
What are the symptoms of low potassium in the elderly?
We know that potassium has many benefits and it is important for all of us, but how do we know the symptoms of low potassium? Following are the symptoms of low potassium in the elderly.
- Feeling tired
- Muscle cramps
- Increased urination
- Digestive problems
- High blood pressure
When a person has low potassium levels in their body then, their muscles will start to weaken and they will feel tired often. This is the first sign of having low potassium. According to healthcare professionals, most of the time when a person suffers from low potassium levels they might also have high sugar levels, which can result in them getting insulin. Your body cells would not have the energy to function smoothly.
The weakness and fatigue will cause a person to be more tired than usual. They would not be able to walk properly and if they do then, their heart rate will accelerate and they will start sweating. Most of the time they would not feel like doing anything.
When your bones and your muscles are weak then, you will face muscle cramps. Low potassium levels will affect your nervous system and that will make your muscles weaker. The entire process will be painful for you as your muscles will start contracting.
Another symptom of having low potassium levels in your body is confusion. The tiredness and the fatigue will make a person appear confused. They will have no idea about what is going on. Most of the time they would even neglect finishing their daily tasks.
Having a balanced potassium level inside your body is extremely important even for your heart muscles. When a person has low potassium inside their body then, your heart rate will be abnormal and you can also have trouble breathing. The heart muscles will start to contract making it difficult for the cells to work smoothly.
When a person is living with low potassium in their body then, their nerves will not be able to function properly. This can create numbness in a person’s legs, arms, hands, and feet. Low potassium will also cause low blood levels in your body which can cause numbness and tingling sensation in different parts of your body.
It is a good thing to pass urine because it is one of our bodies ways of getting rid of any waste. But when there is little to no potassium in your body then, you will urinate more than normal and it might burn during urination. This is because of the low levels of potassium and your body’s inability to pass a concentrated urine.
There is a muscle in your digestive system known as smooth muscle which works when the brain sends signals to it. This signaling happens because of the potassium, as it relays the message. But when a person is suffering from low potassium levels then, your digestion will slow down and it might get weaker with time.
High blood pressure:
When your body has too much sodium in it then, it will increase your blood pressure and this will also increase the chance of you getting a stroke. When you have less potassium in your body, you will suffer from high blood pressure and it can also make you have difficulty in breathing. So, it is important that you have enough potassium in your system to have a normal blood pressure.
How to increase potassium?
We all know that one of the greatest sources of potassium is bananas but there are many other ways you can increase potassium in your body. Following are some ways through which you can increase potassium in your body.
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Swiss chard
- Salt substitute
Avocados are rich in healthy fats and vitamin K, also it contains 345 mg of potassium. If you eat the whole avocado without the skin and the seed then you will be able to get at least 15% of DV. Avocados are best for maintaining your blood pressure and it also reduces the sodium intake in your body, as they are low in sodium.
Sweet potatoes are a good substitute for white potatoes with less fat in them. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins and fibers, they also provide around 20% of potassium to your body. They do not have complex fats in them which makes them a good substitute. For a balanced diet you can add some lentils and beans to your plate alongside some sweet potatoes.
You can also consume potassium supplements as a source to increase the potassium levels in your body. It is a faster way to increase potassium in your body but you have to consult your healthcare professional before you start consuming any sort of supplement because not every supplement is good for you.
We all know that watermelon has a high rate of water but it also has at least 14% of potassium in it. Only eating two slices of this delicious fruit daily can provide your body the potassium and water it needs to live a stable and healthy life.
Coconut, especially coconut water is a good source for activating electrolytes in your cells. These electrolytes help your cells to charge up and it gives you energy. Having coconut water is a good substitute for energy drinks after a run or a workout. It has no added sugar and no preservatives, it can increase the water and potassium intake in your body.
We know that beans are a plant based protein and they are enriched with fibers and carbs. According to healthcare professionals, beans have more potassium than bananas. Beans, especially black beans, have 13% of potassium in them and they are also rich in water. The water and potassium will help the cells in your body to charge up and give you the much needed energy.
Legumes include lentils, pulses, chickpeas, and soybeans. They are rich in minerals and proteins, but they also have between 10% – 19% of potassium in them. It is best to soak the legumes at least one hour before you cook them, this way the minerals will be able to work more effectively.
Most people see butternut squash as a winter fruit but there are people who consider it as a root vegetable. It has at least 12% of potassium in it and it is also rich in protein, vitamins, and magnesium. All of these things will help you balance your blood pressure.
Swiss chard is a green vegetable that is high in nutritions. According to healthcare professionals, swiss chard has almost double the amount of potassium in it than bananas. It has around 16% of potassium in them and it is also low in calories but high in fiber. This makes them one of the best sources of potassium.
We all know that beets are a great source to increase the blood in our system. They are good for the blood circulation and have nitrates in them. Aside from this, beets also have 11% of potassium that can help in the regulation of blood pressure and improves your overall heart health.
Fish are one of the great sources of protein but it also has 12% of potassium in them. Fish also reduces the risk of having any heart disease. According to healthcare professionals, fish is beneficial for all of us as it fights the cancer cells in our body. Different fishes have different levels of potassium in them. Fillet has 11%, salmon has 21%, and tune has 17% of potassium in them.
We all know that salt has high levels of sodium in it and sodium works as an agent against potassium. Which is why when a person consumes too much salt, their blood pressure will get extremely high which can be fatal for them. It is best to avoid salt and use substitutes like rosemary, mixed herbs, garlic powder, vinegar, mint, basil, cardamon, chives, and so much more. These substitutes have around 25% of potassium in them which can help reduce the amount of sodium in your body.
Potassium is the one of the most important minerals that keeps our body healthy and stable. But it is supreme that we have a balanced amount of potassium in our body, neither too much nor too little. Having too much potassium can remove all the traces of sodium and calcium from your body, and that is not a good thing. Having too little potassium can cause weakness and high blood pressure which can lead to more diseases. It is supreme that you have potassium in your body as it also helps your nervous system. Especially in the elderly, when they have too little potassium in their body then, their muscles will start to contract and the person will face difficulty while walking.
It is necessary to increase potassium in our bodies when there is a little amount only. The weakness and muscle cramps can make the situation worse for you, if not treated at the right time. If you are looking for a faster way then you can take supplements that are rich in potassium. But even then, do not take any supplement without consulting your doctor first. Always remember that not every medicine is for you. Aside from that, if you want to increase the potassium levels in your body naturally then, you can always add avocados, sweet potatoes, watermelon, coconut, beans, legumes, butternut squash, swiss chard, beets, and fish to your diet. You can also replace salt with other things like rosemary, garlic powder, chives, and vinegar. Maintain a balanced diet with all the vitamins, protein, iron, potassium, sodium, and nutrients in it. This way you will stay healthy and happy.