Potassium is an electrolyte that plays an important role in the human body. Almost 100% of it is found in cells and most of it is found in the muscles. However, it is also found in the liver, bone cells and red blood cells. It is responsible for cell voltage so that electrical signals can be transmitted. When there is a potassium deficiency, the muscles and therefore the heart can not contract. Potassium is also involved in maintaining the acid-base balance and influences blood pressure.

Potassium levels

When determining potassium levels, a distinction should be made between the value in the whole blood and in the serum.

Potassium level normal range in whole blood in adults: 3.4 – 4.6 mmol/l

Potassium level normal range in serum in adults: 3.6 – 5.0 mmol/l

Values above this are referred to as hyperkalemia and values below this is referred to as hypokalemia, also known as a  potassium deficiency.

Low potassium - hypokalemia

If the potassium level is too low, it is known as hypokalemia or potassium deficiency. A low potassium level is accompanied by a variety of symptoms. Please read the article on potassium deficiency.

High potassium - hyperkalemia

If potassium is too high, it is known as hyperkalemia. This can be caused, for example, by incorrectly adjusted medication or kidney disease. The kidneys excrete potassium via the primary urine. If kidney function is impaired, more potassium may be detectable in the blood.

If potassium is only slightly too high, there are rarely any noticeable symptoms. Increased hyperkalemia can lead to impaired transmission of impulses in the muscles and nerves and can result in cardiac arrhythmia, for example.

Daily potassium requirement

The daily requirement of potassium for adults is approximately 4000 mg per day. Breastfeeding women and people with certain health conditions may need more potassium. The exact daily requirement of potassium can be determined on the basis of individual diagnostic procedures and adjusted accordingly.

Normally, the need for potassium can be met through food. In special situations, however, it may be advisable to take an additional potassium supplement.

Dr. med. Karsten Ostermann M.A.

Potassium plays an important role in the body and its interaction with other minerals, trace elements and vitamins should always be considered. After an individual diagnosis, a specific adjustment of potassium can be made.

Dr. Karsten Ostermann

Further information

The information listed contains relevant topics and serves to improve understanding.