Potassium is an electrolyte.  An electrolyte is defined in the Medline Plus dictionary as:

“1. A nonmetallic electric conductor in which current is carried by the movement of ions.

“2a. a substance (as an acid, base, or salt) that when dissolved in a suitable solvent (as water) or when fused becomes an ionic conductor

2b. any of the ions (as of sodium, potassium, calcium, or bicarbonate) that in a biological fluid regulate or affect most metabolic processes (as the flow of nutrients into and waste products out of cells)—used especially in biology and biochemistry.”

Potassium and sodium are electrolytes necessary for the body to properly regulate the amount of water most optimum for the body.  Potassium is also necessary for the proper operation of the cardiovascular system and the proper operation of the muscles.  The amount of potassium is regulated by the kidneys.

NORMAL BLOOD LEVELS

The normal blood potassium level is 3.7 – 5.0 milliEquivalents/liter (mEq/L or 1000th of a liter).

LOWER THAN NORMAL BLOOD LEVELS

People who are low in potassium can experience dehydration and irregular heartbeats.  One of the common symptoms is muscle cramping, but you can also experience the other symptoms of dehydration.  Common causes of low potassium (hypokalemia) can be caused by:
•    Diarrhea
•    Cushing syndrome (too high levels of cortisol)
•    Too little potassium in the diet
•    Kidney problems
•    Dehydration
•    Vomiting
•    Diuretics

HIGHER THAN NORMAL BLOOD LEVELS

If a person has either too high or too low amounts of potassium, this is generally either caused by certain medicines or it may indicate kidney problems.
•    Addison’s Disease (when the adrenal glands produce insufficient hormones)
•    Blood transfusions
•    Some medications
•    Kidney problems
•    Low red blood cells
•    Too much potassium in the diet