Potassium is a mineral found in a number of foods that is considered essential for the proper functioning of the human body. It is especially important in the regulation of the heart beat. Potassium salts are chemical compounds that usually include potassium and chlorine, forming Potassium Chloride. This chemical compound is odorless and has either a white or colorless vitreous crystal appearance. Incidentally, it also dissolves very easily in water and has a very salt-like taste.
Within this classification of drugs you will find:
Potassium salts are generally useful in replenishing potassium levels within the human body and can be taken either orally or intravenously (injections should be diluted). The most common use of these medications and mineral compounds is as a substitute for regular table salt, helping many people who would otherwise be at a higher risk for hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. Additionally, when someone is consuming too much table salt, this can lead to an unbalanced potassium level within the body, which is also alleviated through the use of potassium salts. Kidney disease can many times be prevented by the use of potassium salts. When people take in too much sodium, this can force the kidneys to work very hard excrete the extra water held. Potassium salts, by helping to bring these levels back in balance, can eliminate much of the stress on the kidneys. By the same token, these compound can also help to reduce the risk and incidence of high blood pressure. Medically, potassium salts can be used in the treatment of hypokalemia as an electrolyte replenisher. These salts may also be used in some types of cardiac surgeries which cannot be performed on a beating heart; the heart will be bypassed with a heart-lung machine and then potassium salts injected to stop the beating heart.
There are a number of serious side effects that can result in the improper use of potassium salts. They include:
You should also remember that potassium itself is lethal in excessive doses. Orally, this would need to be around 2.5 g/kg. High doses can lead to cardiac arrest and rapid death, which is the reason a potassium salt is the final drug delivered in the lethal injection process.
You should not take potassium salts if you are using certain diuretics, or water pills or if you are already taken other medications to treat high levels of potassium in the blood (hyperkalemia). These drugs would also be contraindicated for those with kidney failure, Addison's disease, severe burns, or other tissue injuries. Never take potassium salts if you are dehydrated or have not eaten in a while. Never crush, break, chew, or suck on an extended release potassium salt pill, since this could lead to a very high amount of potassium being released at once.
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