Dr Ranj explains what causes heart palpitations
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To date, there is little evidence to back up the long-standing claims that supplements are innocuous. In fact, there is growing proof that supplementation warrants great caution, and never without the seal of approval of a doctor. Some supplements, such as potassium, are taken to promote muscle function and control blood pressure. The supplement, however, does not come without risks either.
Potassium, which is found in abundance in bananas, is essential for muscle function and blood pressure.
In fact, potassium-rich foods are often recommended to reduce the risk of stroke, by reducing high blood pressure.
It does so by relaxing the walls of the blood vessels, which also helps protect against muscle cramping.
“People who already have high blood pressure can significantly lower their systolic blood pressure by increasing their potassium intake when they choose to eat healthy foods,” explains Harvard Health.
READ MORE: Atrial fibrillation: The everyday food item ‘significantly’ increasing your risk
Although potassium is crucial for many processes in the body, consuming the right amount is key.
According to Harvard Health, supplementation with potassium should never be taken without medical approval for a qualified clinician. Over-consumption of certain fruits such as over-ripe bananas could trigger heart palpitations too.
This is because overdosing on potassium can lead to hyperkalemia, which happens when the kidneys, which are responsible for regulating the body’s potassium levels, receive more potassium than they are able to excrete.
“Don’t take supplements without a doctor’s advice – overly high levels of potassium can lead to dangerous irregular heart rhythms,” explains the health body.
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In fact, atrial fibrillation (AF) is one of the consequences of getting both too little and too much potassium.
This can cause symptoms like a fluttering sensation in your chest, that may feel like the heart is racing or pounding.
The foundation Heart explains which mechanisms are at play in the relationship between potassium and AF.
“Potassium and sodium concentrations play a crucial role in electric signal functioning of the heart’s middle thick muscle layer, known as the myocardium,” explains the health body.
“An above normal level of potassium can interfere with proper electric signals in that muscle layer and lead to different types of heart arrhythmias.”
Hyperkalemia can be difficult to diagnose, but occasionally changes in heart rhythm can be used to help detect it.
Other symptoms of hyperkalemia include nausea, a slow, weak or irregular pulse, irritability, paraesthesia, muscle weakness, diarrhoea, abdominal cramping.
The condition can also cause a “sudden collapse if the heartbeat slows or stops altogether,” explains Heart.
How to avoid Hyperkalemia
Hyperkalemia is prevented predominantly by managing potassium levels so they remain within a healthy range.
In order to do this, a health professional may ask that certain foods be consumed or limited.
Vegetables may include avocados, tomato sauce and asparagus and potatoes, and fruits may include nectarines, kiwis, prunes, dried fruits, oranges and bananas.
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