Low Potassium & Dizziness

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Bananas for sale at a market. (Image: dabldy/iStock/Getty Images)

Potassium is an important mineral needed for several bodily functions. It helps to keep the right acid-base balance in the body, plays a role in the digestion of proteins and carbohydrates, helps the heart maintain a regular rhythm and it supports muscle growth. Low levels of potassium can lead to a variety of symptoms and in severe cases it can be life threatening. If you are experiencing dizziness or other symptoms and think that your potassium is too low, see your physician who can confirm a diagnosis and make treatment recommendations.

Hypokalemia

A simple blood test can help to determine if you have hypokalemia, a low level of potassium in your blood. A normal range is between 3.7 to 5.2 mEq/L, or milliequivalent per liter. A level of less than 2.5 mEq/L is considered life threatening. Low potassium level can cause symptoms such as constipation, fatigue, muscle weakness, spasms, paralysis and irregular heart rhythms, says MedlinePlus. If the above or other symptoms appear, it is important to seek medical attention to prevent serious complications.

Arrythmias

There are many different kinds of arrhythmia. Some make the heart beat too fast, while others make it beat too slowly or even skip beats. All types of arrythmia can cause a wide variety of symptoms including dizziness and fainting, notes the Texas Heart Institute. An irregular heart rhythm from any cause might also be accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pain and sweating.

Causes

Various situations can cause low potassium levels. This includes excessive or prolonged diarrhea and vomiting, poor diet, excessive use of laxatives and medications such as diuretics, notes MedlinePlus.com. Since the kidneys are responsible for maintaining the right level of potassium in the blood, any type of kidney disease can also cause hypokalemia. In addition, the adrenal glands secrete hormones that help to regulate the level of potassium in the blood and medical conditions such as primary aldosteronism in which your adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone, can cause you to lose potassium. Since potassium is found in many foods deficiencies due to diet are rare and usually only seen in those who severely restrict their food intake or suffer from an eating disorder.

Sources

Most adults need about 2,000 milligrams of potassium every day. To help meet this goal the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests consuming bananas, citrus juices, avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, lima beans, flounder, salmon, cod, chicken, and other meats. Since the amount of potassium that needs to be present in the blood depends in part on how much sodium is in the blood, it is important to restrict sodium intake when trying increase potassium intake. To reach your potassium needs add tomatoes and tomato products to your diet as they can contain between 1,100 and 2,600 milligrams per cup. Most beans have 800 to 1,000 milligrams of potassium per cup; one cup of grapefruit or orange juice may contain between 1,000 to 1,600 milligrams and potatoes have a little over 1,000 milligrams per potato. In comparison a medium banana only has about 300 to 400 milligrams of potassium.

Supplements

Just as there are many possible causes of low potassium levels, there are many causes for dizziness so it is important to have the underlying cause properly diagnosed. In addition, too high of a level of potassium or hyperkalemia can also be life threatening so it is important to only take supplements under a doctor's care. The symptoms of hyperkalemia are similar to those of hypokalemia so it is necessary to have blood tests to see where your potassium levels are. Your physician can run tests to determine if there are underlying medical conditions that require treatment or if changes to your diet are enough.

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