Use in Prevention and Therapy

High blood pressure. Potassium can lower blood pressure in both hypertensive and nor-motensive people.4 In hypertensive people it typically produces a 5-6 and 3-4mmHg drop in systolic and diastolic pressure, respec-tively.1,5 It is particularly effective in older people and African Americans.6 A diet containing a high potassium/sodium ratio may help reduce high blood pressure and risk of stroke.7

Constipation. Regular intake of laxatives to treat constipation may actually worsen symptoms by causing depletion of body potassium. Reducing laxative use, increasing dietary potassium and fiber intake, and increasing exercise can produce more regular bowel habits.

Chronic diarrhea. Potassium-rich diets and potassium supplements may be useful to replace potassium losses in chronic diarrhea.

Cardiac arrhythmias. Potassium depletion (often together with magnesium depletion) produced by diuretic therapy and/or low dietary intake can increase the risk of arrhythmias. People with heart disease and those taking thiazide or 'loop' diuretics should be sure to obtain adequate dietary potassium.

Exercise. Prolonged strenuous exercise or physical activity, particularly in hot weather, may produce loss of potassium in sweat of up to 1o g/day. Potassium depletion can increase muscle fatigue, reduce performance, and cause muscle cramping and spasms.

Toxicity

Too much potassium can produce cardiac arrhythmias, weakness and fatigue, nausea, and a fall in blood pressure. In healthy adults daily intakes exceeding 8 g can produce hyperkalemia.1 In kidney and/or heart disease the daily dose that is toxic is lower; potassium supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a physician.

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