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Potassium is a mineral classified as an electrolyte, a substance that has electrical properties when it is dissolved in the fluid part of the blood. Like sodium and chloride, the other two electrolytes, potassium is involved in maintaining the body’s fluid and acid-base balances. It also is essential for proper muscle function and various metabolic processes.
Potassium works closely with sodium to maintain the body’s proper balance of fluids and acid-base; specifically, potassium controls the amount of fluid inside the cells while sodium maintains the balance of fluid outside the cells. Other functions include conducting nerve impulses and regulating muscle function, regulating the heartbeat and blood pressure, and aiding in energy metabolism.
Potassium is needed to help convert blood sugar that is not needed immediately into glycogen, a form of stored energy in the liver and muscle tissue. It is also instrumental in the secretion of insulin, the hormone that regulates glucose metabolism. Potassium’s other metabolic functions include protein synthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, and various enzyme actions.