Why Are My Potassium Levels so Low?

The amount of potassium you eat every day matters. I found this out firsthand after a routine blood test revealed I was deficient. When my doctor told me, he said that low potassium levels like mine are increasingly common in people as they age.


Symptoms of low potassium

He went on to list some of the symptoms of low potassium: muscle cramps, an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, fatigue, confusion, and more. To prevent these potentially dangerous symptoms from developing, I needed to add more potassium to my diet.
The obvious answer was to eat more potassium-rich foods, but I knew that eating boring, healthy foods I didn’t like, simply because I was supposed to, was a recipe for failure. Instead, I decided to look at my new health problem as if it was a mystery, and I was the detective assigned to the case.


Good sources of potassium

I started my investigation by searching for foods that are good sources of potassium. After all, if I could find a handful of palatable options, as opposed to just one (Bananas every day, forever? Yuck!), I’d be more likely to change my diet for good.
I quickly realized that lots of foods are rich in potassium, including meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt, soy products, and more. After learning this, I was confused. With so many foods containing potassium, why in the world was I deficient?


Low potassium and high sodium

Next, I searched for low-potassium foods, and I found that nearly all processed, pre-packaged foods fall into this category. Even worse, they’re full of sodium, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a diet that’s both low in potassium and high in sodium can significantly increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and even death.
Until that moment, I never thought of my diet as all that unhealthy. Sure, I leaned on convenience foods to get by — but they were healthy convenience foods. Microwaving a frozen dinner, one that was marketed as healthy, was much easier than cooking from scratch after a long day at work.


Motivation to change

But now, armed with the knowledge I’d uncovered, I knew exactly why my potassium levels were low. I was also ready to ditch the frozen dinners that got me there. Increasing my potassium intake was important, but reducing my risk for much, much worse? Now that was all the motivation I needed to change my diet for the better — and maintain it for good.

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