Potassium is an incredibly essential mineral that our bodies require. As a rule, healthy adult males need 3,400 mg per day, and healthy adult women need 2,600 mg. However, some people with potassium sensitivity or kidney problems may need lower amounts.
Therefore, it’s important to know how much potassium you’re consuming and how to recognize whether your intake is too high or too low. What’s more, it might be beneficial to be able to check your potassium levels at home. So this begs the question:
Can you check your potassium level at home?
Potassium levels can be checked through a blood test or urine sample. Both of these aren’t usually performed at home, but thanks to growing medical improvements, there are some options that allow people to either test their potassium level at home or take the sample at home and deliver it to the lab, receiving a much faster lab result.
What are some alternative ways of checking your potassium level at home?
Several companies now offer or are developing test kits that enable people to perform an electrolyte panel in the comfort of their own homes. Some of these tests work just as the blood sugar level tests, meaning that all you need to do to take the sample is prick your finger and place the drop of blood in the specific testing equipment.
Then, the test kit will perform the test and you’ll be able to get the results relatively quickly.
Most of these test kits are connected to a specific platform, where both you and your healthcare providers will be able to see the results instantly. This allows you to get the results faster but also, in case of any worrying results, inform your medical professional of your potassium levels.
As a result, these tests can prevent many heart attacks and deaths caused by high blood pressure.
In addition, there are tests that use a urine sample. These are mostly done at the doctor’s office, but these days, it’s possible to take the sample at home and simply deliver it at the lab or your doctor’s office.
The results from such a test are also available almost instantly unless your healthcare provider ordered a 24-hour sample, which means that you collect the urine samples over the period of 24 hours.
Other tests offer the ability to measure potassium levels through the use of an ECG (electrocardiograms). This technology — primarily used in hospitals — monitors the patient’s heartbeat and heart rhythm. Since low and high potassium levels are visible in the spikes on the ECG, such tests allow us to see whether there are some potassium level discrepancies.
Some tests using this technology are currently available on the market and work in the similar way that blood pressure measurement machines work. Others are still in development but are set to come out in the upcoming years.
Why is potassium important?
Potassium is a mineral classified as an electrolyte. It’s involved in a wide variety of processes in our bodies, so it’s essential to consume adequate amounts of this mineral. Potassium plays a vital role in maintaining proper nerve function, steady heartbeat, and muscle contraction.
A diet rich in potassium can also help to offset some of the negative effects of sodium. Since sodium can have detrimental effects on blood pressure, taking in enough potassium can help balance those levels out, preventing many cardiovascular diseases and maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Potassium also helps to maintain a proper pH balance in your body. By controlling the body’s acidity and alkalinity, this electrolyte ensures that your body is sufficiently hydrated. What’s more, it also flushes out all the unnecessary and toxic substances out of your body, protecting the cells and their health.
Generally, people get all the potassium they need from their diet. If you live in a developed country and consume a balanced diet, there’s a very low chance that your potassium levels are too high or too low. However, it’s important that it might happen, especially if your body is undergoing extreme stress or recovering after surgery.
In any case, it’s very easy to add potassium-rich foods to your diet. For example, some foods containing good amounts of potassium include:
- Leafy greens, such as lettuce or spinach,
- Fruit from vines, such as grapes
- Root vegetables, such as potatoes or turnips
- Citrus fruit, such as lemons or grapefruits
Some of these foods, however, are extremely high in potassium, which can be a problem for people struggling with kidney disease. Kidneys play a crucial role in removing excess potassium from our bodies.
So when they’re not functioning properly, they can’t perform this task successfully. As a result, it’s essential to be aware of your potassium levels at all times.
How do I know if I need a potassium level test?
Measuring your potassium level is second nature to some people who struggle with high blood pressure, kidney diseases, or diabetes. However, not all of us know whether we should get out potassium levels checked.
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, your potassium levels might be too high:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Paralysis in the arms and/or legs
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, though, your potassium levels might be too low:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle cramps
Since most of these symptoms are similar, and they can also be a sign of other ailments, it’s important to react quickly and get your potassium levels checked. In most cases, a quick visit to your doctor’s office will be enough.
However, if you notoriously need to have your potassium level checked, it might be best to look into some home-testing alternatives.
Checking your potassium levels at home is a relatively new technology, so it still needs improvement. However, it’s reliable enough to help prevent serious health consequences for people suffering from kidney failure, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
It’s also very useful knowledge for the rest of the people, even those not suffering from any of those conditions.
Don’t know which foods are high in potassium? Read our article 15 Best Food Sources Of Potassium. We also have a guide on this important mineral: Potassium 101: All You Need To Know About Potassium.
I’ve been interested in food for many years, and nutrition is my passion. From cooking healthy meals to educating myself on the health benefits of food products, there’s nothing that I don’t enjoy writing and learning about.