Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Potassium is one of the primary electrolytes (crucial chemicals for cell function), and is concentrated within the cells of the body. Only 2% of the body's total potassium is available in the serum
or blood stream. Small changes in the serum levels of potassium can affect body function. One of the more important functions of potassium
is to maintain the electrical activity of the cells in the body. Cells with high electrical activity (for example,
nerves and muscles, including the heart) are particularly affected when potassium levels fall.
Normal serum potassium levels range from 3.5 to 5.0 mEq/liter in the blood. Normal daily intake of potassium is 70-100 mEq (270 to 390 mg/dl), and requires the kidneys to remove that same amount each day. If more is removed, the body's total potassium store will be decreased, and the result is hypokalemia (hypo=low + kal=potassium +emia= in the blood) occurs.
Potassium enters the body through dietary intake. Examples of potassium rich foods include:
The heart is a two-stage electric pump whose job it is to circulate blood through the body. The initial electrical impulse that begins the process of a heartbeat is generated by a group of cells located in the "...