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The body needs potassium for the contraction of muscles (including the heart), and for the functioning of many complicated proteins (enzymes). Secretion of the hormone insulin, which is normally stimulated by food, prevents a temporary diet -induced Hypokalemia by increasing cell absorption of potassium. The normal concentration of potassium in the body is regulated by the kidneys through the excretion of urine. Hypokalemia is a metabolic imbalance characterized by extremely low potassium levels in the blood. It is a symptom of another disease or condition, or a side effect of diuretic drugs. When Hypokalemia occurs, there is an imbalance resulting from a dysfunction in this normal process, or the rapid loss of urine or sweat without replacement of sufficient potassium. Potassium is found primarily in the skeletal muscle and bone, and participates with sodium to contribute to the normal flow of body fluids between the cells in the body. When the kidneys are functioning normally, the amount of potassium in the diet is sufficient for use by the body and the excess is usually excreted through urine and sweat. Body chemicals and hormones such as aldosterone also regulate potassium balance.
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Last Updated: 2/2/2008 1990, 2003 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.