You don’t hear much about potassium — but you should. It’s important for your over-all health, muscle strength, nerve functioning, and a healthy cardiovascular system, says Janet Brill, a Philadelphia-based nutritionist. The nutrient’s in lots of delicious foods (think: melon, avocados, bananas, and white beans). But even if you get the recommended 4,700 mg per day, you still might have a deficiency. Why? The more sodium you consume, the more potassium your body excretes, says Brill. Tip-offs that you need more can be hard to notice, but if you experience any of these signs and can’t figure out what’s behind them, check in with your doc to have your potassium levels tested.
1/ You’re Constantly Wiped Out
Every cell in your body needs the right amount of potassium to function, and a sustained dip can result in generalised fatigue. So if your regular sweat session leaves you exhausted and you know you’re getting enough sleep, the lack of this important mineral might be the cause.
2/ You Have High Blood Pressure
Potassium helps relax blood vessels, says Brill. Without enough of it, they can become constricted, which causes blood pressure to soar. Not sure how often you should be checking your blood pressure? This handy guide on how frequently you should get various health checks done should help.
3/ You Eat Primarily Out of Bags and Boxes
Consuming processed foods almost ensures that you have low potassium because of all the sodium chips, crackers, and frozen meals contain, says Brill. Cut back on the salty stuff to help your body hold on to more of the mineral you’re eating.
READ MORE: Are You Getting Enough Fibre In Your Diet?
4/ Your Muscles Feel Weak or Crampy
Potassium plays a role in smooth muscle contraction, so when levels are low, you might experience aches and even spasms, says Brill.
5/ Your Heart Skips a Beat
It’s scary and freaky when your heart suddenly pounds or your heart rate speeds up for no apparent reason at all. Lots of things can cause skipped beats or palpitations, but low potassium is one of them.
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6/ You Feel Faint or Dizzy
A large drop in potassium levels can slow your heartbeat enough to make you feel like you’re going to pass out. It’s not common, and many other factors can be the cause, but if you experience this, see your doctor right away.
Sounds crazy, but low potassium levels slow down other bodily functions, and your digestive system is no exception. Bloating and abdominal cramping can also occur. Of course, a potassium deficiency isn’t the only thing that can make you feel puffier than usual.
8/ Tingling and Numbness
Potassium helps keep your nerves healthy, and without it, you may experience that annoying pins and needles sensation.