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Internal _ Diabetes, Insulin, and Potassium from A to Z

What Is the Relationship Between Diabetes, Insulin, and Potassium?

by Owen Clarke 23 Jan 2023

According to recent statistics, diabetes mellitus is one of the most widely spread diseases worldwide. More than 500 million adults live with the disease these days. On top of that, many of them depend on regular insulin intake to manage their blood sugar levels.

But what does potassium have to do with it? How is it connected to diabetes and insulin? Well, keep reading this article to find answers to these questions and check out the essential information on the relationship between diabetes, insulin, and potassium.

About Diabetes, Insulin, and Potassium from A to Z

Above anything else, let us define what is diabetes, insulin, and potassium. The below-mentioned section features the most important information on these three notions. So, how about going through it right away?

You should also read our Humalog vs. Novolog. After this comparison, you can understand all the differences between these drugs.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that is characterized by high blood glucose levels. It might appear as a result of one of the following health complications:

  • Your body has poor insulin secretion (namely, it either produces too little amount of the hormone or does not produce it at all);
  • Your body produces enough insulin but does not use it in a proper way.

Worth knowing: In some cases, high blood sugar levels might be caused by pregnancy. This health condition is usually referred to as gestational diabetes and fades away on its own after giving birth.

Depending on their key characteristics and peculiarities, diabetes might be divided into the following types:

  • Type 1 diabetes (it usually occurs when your body does not produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels);
  • Type 2 diabetes (in most cases, it appears when your body does not use the produced insulin in a proper way or develops the so-called insulin resistance).

The biggest difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that type 1 diabetes is a genetic health complication, while type 2 diabetes is a gained lifestyle-related problem. Moreover, type 1 diabetes usually shows up early in life, while type 2 diabetes appears in adulthood in most cases.

what is diabetes

Worth knowing: Based on the above-mentioned information, it becomes clear that type 1 diabetes is a congenital condition, while type 2 diabetes is an acquired one.

It is also essential to mention that people with type 1 diabetes are usually dependent on the regular intake of insulin treatment. While people with type 2 diabetes, in their turn, might manage their disease with the help of a healthy lifestyle and sugar-low diet.

Worth knowing: People with type 1 diabetes used to have a very low life expectancy in the past. They had to adhere to a 500-calories-per-day diet in order to prolong their lives for at least a bit.

Among the main symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Too frequent urge to urinate;
  • Constant feeling of thirst or hunger;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Numb hands or feet;
  • Very dry skin;
  • Persistent tiredness or lack of energy.

On top of that, people with diabetes might either lose or gain weight without any obvious reason for it.

Worth knowing: If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is recommended to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

What Is Insulin?

Insulin is a naturally-occurring hormone that is produced in the pancreas. Its main function is to help your body transform sugar into energy. More precisely, it is insulin that helps your body to transfer the sugar it gains from food from blood to the cells where it has to be stored (for instance, skeletal muscle cells).

Therefore, the lack of insulin or its improper work makes it impossible for your body to use sugar for energy. Instead of entering your cells, sugar molecules build up in your blood (this health condition is usually called hyperglycemia) and, therefore, cause the development of diabetes.

Worth knowing: Not only human beings but also other mammals use the hormone insulin to transform the sugar they gain from food into energy.

Apart from a naturally-occurring hormone, there also exists a synthetic substitution of it, which is oftentimes also referred to as insulin. It functions as a medical product used by people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels. Depending on the duration of their action, there exists:

  • Rapid-acting insulin;
  • Short-acting insulin;
  • Intermediate-acting insulin;
  • Long-acting insulin.

Worth knowing: There also exists mixed insulin which might combine several types in one bottle.

The above-mentioned medical products that substitute naturally-occurring insulin might be administered in a variety of medical forms. Among the main ones are:

Worth knowing: It is a task of a certified healthcare provider to define what type of insulin a patient with diabetes has to take in order to manage their current health condition and assist their body in glucose transport.

What Is Potassium?

Potassium is a food-gained mineral that plays an essential role in the human body. Among its main functions are the regulation of regular fluid levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Worth knowing: The normal serum potassium concentration should vary between 3.6 and 5.2 millimoles per liter. Anything below it is called hypokalemia and anything above it is called hyperkalemia.

Fruits and vegetables belong to the food that contains the highest potassium levels. More precisely, the mineral might be primarily found in the following products:

  • Apricots;
  • Bananas;
  • Greens;
  • Kiwis;
  • Mushrooms;
  • Oranges;
  • Spinach;
  • Sweet potato.

Just in case a person does not have a normal level of potassium intake, a doctor might prescribe them dietary potassium to evade a potassium deficiency.

Worth knowing: It is a task of a certified healthcare provider to prescribe a patient potassium uptake. Otherwise, a patient might increase their potassium level too much and, therefore, cause hyperkalemia.

The Relationship Between Diabetes, Insulin, and Potassium

Now you know what is diabetes, insulin, and potassium. So, it is high time to define what is the connection between these notions. Keep reading this section to figure out the details of the potassium and insulin relationship.

What Is the Relationship Between Potassium and Insulin Production Within the Human Body?

According to recent clinical trials, there exists a direct relationship between the potassium level and the production of insulin. Namely, if your potassium level is too low, your body is expected to start producing less insulin, which might eventually lead to the presence of too much glucose in your blood.

More precisely, people with poor peripheral potassium metabolism tend to develop high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and chronic kidney disease. Moreover, low serum potassium levels might lead to the appearance of high blood sugar levels and, therefore, function as risk factors for diabetes.

Worth knowing: Only a certified healthcare provider should define how much potassium each patient needs to stay healthy and avoid digestive and kidney diseases. It is usually done with the help of a special blood test.

How Low Potassium Affects People with Diabetes?

If a person already has a high blood glucose level (namely, type 1 or type 2 diabetes) and develops a low level of potassium chloride, they might experience a worsening of their overall health condition. In other words, their blood plasma glucose might get even higher.

Worth knowing: People with diabetes might develop hypokalemia due to the fact that the intake of insulin might spare potassium from urinary excretion.

Due to the direct insulin and potassium relationship, it is of vital importance to pay proper attention to potassium homeostasis in patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. This way, numerous risk factors of patients’ health conditions worsening might be eliminated.

Worth knowing: Sometimes, the prescription of dietary potassium might substantially improve the health condition of a patient with high blood sugar levels.

What Is the Risk of High Potassium in People with Diabetes?

Too high potassium levels are just as dangerous as too low potassium levels in people living with diabetes. Namely, they might substantially increase the risk of different health complications, including heart problems.

Worth knowing: If a patient develops insulin resistance, their intracellular potassium might build up in their blood. These high potassium levels, in their turn, will eventually lead to hyperkalemia.

Therefore, diabetics with high potassium levels are strongly recommended to consult with their healthcare providers in regard to the topic of treating hyperkalemia in the first place. By decreasing their potassium levels, they might substantially improve their insulin sensitivity.

Worth knowing: The so-called insulin-stimulated potassium usually has a negative effect on patients living with diabetes. Thus, it is essential to manage it in a proper way.

Final Words

All in all, there exists a direct relationship between insulin and potassium levels. Neither too high nor too low potassium levels have a positive effect on a diabetic’s health. Therefore, it is of great importance to manage acute hyperkalemia or hypokalemia in time, especially when it comes to people with high blood sugar levels.

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