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hypokalemia

condition in which potassium is insufficient or is not utilized properly. Potassium is a mineral that forms positive ions (electrically charged particles) in solution and is an essential constituent of cellular fluids. The relationship between potassium and the metabolism of nitrogen compounds is not completely understood, but potassium is known to be important to this process. Storage of potassium in body cells is dependent on maintenance of a proper ratio with calcium and sodium. Potassium is important for normal muscle and nerve responsiveness, heart rhythm, and, in particular, intracellular fluid pressure and balance. Approximately 8 percent of the potassium that the body takes in through food consumption is retained; the rest is readily excreted.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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