Potassium is one of the most important minerals needed by the body for proper functioning of all cells. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in the body and is required to keep the body in good health. Potassium and magnesium are typically obtained in sufficient amounts through the diet, but when levels are low, taking a dietary supplement may be necessary. Consult your physician before taking potassium or magnesium supplements.
Both potassium and magnesium are electrolyte minerals, meaning they are required for conduction of electrical impulses in the body along with sodium, calcium and chloride. Potassium is critical for muscle contraction, the heart muscle in particular. It also is necessary for keeping the correct fluid balance in the body, blood pressure stabilization and for digestion. Magnesium is also needed for proper nerve and muscle function, along with maintaining a steady heartbeat, a healthy immune system and blood glucose levels. Together, potassium and magnesium are crucial to heart function, and when potassium levels are low, magnesium levels are usually low as well.
Potassium levels are checked through a blood test. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the normal potassium level for an adult is 3.5 to 5.0 mmol/L. A deficiency in potassium, called hypokalemia, can cause symptoms of weakness, muscle cramps, stomach problems, constipation, lack of energy and an abnormal heartbeat. Low levels of potassium are generally not caused by too little potassium in the diet, but rather too much potassium being excreted in the urine as a result of medications, including diuretics taken for blood pressure management, kidney disease and ingesting too much licorice. Hypokalemia is a life-threatening situation requiring medical treatment.
Levels of magnesium are checked via a blood test, the normal range being 1.6 to 2.4 mg/dL, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A magnesium deficiency is rare in the United States because most people's diets contain enough of this mineral. However, certain medical disorders are capable of causing a deficiency in magnesium, including Crohn's disease, prolonged diarrhea, celiac disease, diabetes, kidney disease and chronic alcoholism. Diuretic medications can also cause a deficiency. Early on, the symptoms consist of loss of appetite, diarrhea, weakness, fatigue and vomiting. If the deficiency worsens, other symptoms develop, including numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures and abnormal heartbeat.
Bananas, potatoes, lima beans and avocados contain a good amount of both potassium and magnesium. Other foods containing high amounts of potassium are orange juice, tomatoes, cantaloupes, chicken, salmon and cod. Foods containing high amounts of magnesium include spinach, soybeans, peanuts, brown rice, whole milk, yogurt, wheat bran, halibut and blackstrap molasses.
- banana image by DuÅ¡an Zidar from Fotolia.com
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