Potassium is an essential mineral found naturally in dried apricots, salmon, avocadoes, white beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and bananas.
Potassium also plays a vital role as an electrolyte in the bodyPotassium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure. The kidneys regulate body fluid and do this using a filtration system, filtering off extra fluid into the bladder as urine. This is controlled by the balance between sodium and potassium in the body. Dietary salt (sodium chloride) increases the levels of sodium in the body which may alter this sensitive balance. Studies have linked low potassium levels to increased blood pressure. Researchers have also shown increased potassium intake reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Electrolytes are minerals in the body fluids that have an electrical charge. It is vital that electrolyte levels are maintained in the body. Normal body function is dependent on potassium concentration inside and outside the cell
Potassium contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system. Potassium is needed for nerve transmission. Nerves are polarised when there is sodium on the outside of the cell and potassium on the inside. When a stimulus reaches the nerve, sodium rushes into the cell and the neurone becomes depolarized and an action potential is created and the stimulus transmitted. Repolarization occurs as the potassium ions move outside and sodium ions stay inside the membrane. So after the action potential is finished, the cell membrane returns to normal during a refractory period when the sodium and potassium return to their original sides. This occurs around the cell membrane carrying the electrical impulse around the cell.
Potassium contributes to normal muscle function. The majority of potassium is found in muscle tissue. Potassium is highest inside the cell membrane while highest levels of sodium ions exist in the fluid surrounding the cells. This sodium and potassium balance create a gradient across the cell wall that enables the transport of molecules in and out of the cell, transmitting nerve signals that result in muscle contraction.
Low potassium levels prevent muscle relaxation leading to tension, rigidity and impaired function. Symptoms may include muscle weakness and muscle spasm.