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How Do You Know If You Are Low on Potassium?

By Sara Ipatenco

Your body needs a constant supply of potassium for the proper functioning of your nerve and muscle cells, especially those in your heart. A normal potassium level is between 3.6 and 4.8 milliequilvalents per liter, and anything less than 2.5 mEq/L is considered dangerous and possibly life-threatening, according to MayoClinic.com. Knowing the symptoms of low potassium will help you seek medical attention as soon as possible. A journal can help you keep track of your individual symptoms so you are able to recognize when your potassium levels get too low.

Take note of muscle cramps or muscle weakness. Muscles need plenty of potassium to contract properly. If you feel cramps in any part of your body, your potassium levels may have fallen below healthy levels. Weakness is another sign of low potassium, so if you feel muscle weakness for more than a day, you may need to have your potassium levels checked. Tingling and numbness are additional muscular signs of low potassium.

Record your bowel movements. Constipation is a common symptom of low potassium. If you have difficulty passing stool or have not passed stool in more than a day, you may be constipated.

Pay attention to the activity of your heart. Abnormal heart rhythm is a sign of low potassium, so if you feel an irregular heartbeat, your potassium may have fallen below healthy levels. Heart palpitations are another sign of low potassium. Heart palpitations feel like your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering or pounding.

Monitor whether you feel nauseated on an ongoing basis or if you have vomited several times without another explanation. Nausea and vomiting are both signs of low potassium and serve as an important clue that your levels are too low.

Tips

Keep a journal of your symptoms to take to your medical appointments with you. Your doctor will be better able to prescribe the correct amount of supplements or medication if he knows how often you experience symptoms and the activities that lead to your symptoms. Take any medication at regular intervals to ensure that your body gets a steady stream of potassium.

Warnings

If you have low potassium on a regular basis, keep all appointments with your doctor and follow his guidelines for having your potassium levels checked regularly. Low potassium can be life-threatening if it is not discovered and treated immediately. If you experience any of these symptoms and you have a problem with low potassium, seek medical attention as soon as possible so your potassium levels can be replenished.

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