Nutrition, part 5: Electrolytes - Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium

by Cathy Parkes October 09, 2023 Updated: February 02, 2024 5 min read

  • 0:00 Nutrition flashcards
  • 1:04 Calcium (Ca)
  • 2:27 Magnesium (Mg)
  • 3:38 Phosphorus (P)
  • 4:54 Potassium (K)
  • 6:29 Sodium (Na)
  • 7:25 Quiz Time!

Full Transcript

Hi, I'm Cathy with Level Up RN. In this video, I will be discussing electrolytes. And at the end of the video, I'm going to give you guys a quiz to test your understanding of some of the key points I'll be covering. So definitely stay tuned for that. And if you have our Level Up RN Nutrition Flashcards, go ahead and pull out your flashcards on electrolytes so you can follow along with me, and pay close attention to the bold red text on the back of these cards because those are the things that you are likely to get tested on in nursing school.

Before we get into specific electrolytes, I did want to mention that when we talk about the normal range for an electrolyte, this will vary across different textbooks, online sources, and hospital systems. So I urge you not to get hung up on those small differences because when you are given an out-of-range value on a test, it will likely be very high or very low as opposed to slightly high or slightly low.

Let's start off by talking about calcium, which is an electrolyte that is critical for bone and teeth formation, muscle and nerve function, as well as clotting. The normal range for calcium is between 9 and 10.5 milliequivalents per liter. Our cool chicken hint to help you remember this range is California, which is abbreviated CA, is due for the big earthquake at some point, which may measure between 9 and 10.5 on the Richter scale. Key dietary sources of calcium include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as kale, broccoli, fish such as sardines and salmon, and fortified foods such as cereal. High levels of calcium, which is called hypercalcemia, can cause constipation, kidney stones, bone pain, muscle weakness, and confusion. Low levels of calcium, which is called hypocalcemia, can cause muscle spasms as well as paresthesia, which is a burning, prickling type sensation, kind of like pins and needles.

Next, we have magnesium, which is an electrolyte that is critical for nerve and muscle function as well as many biochemical reactions in the body. The normal range for magnesium is between 1.3 and 2.1 milliequivalents per liter. Our cool chicken hint to help you remember this range is, if you have an MG, which is a very small British car, you can only fit 1 or 2 people in it, which is the approximate range for magnesium. Dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, milk, yogurt, and fortified cereal. High levels of magnesium, which is called hypermagnesemia, can cause lethargy, muscle weakness, decreased deep tendon reflexes, as well as respiratory depression and cardiac arrest. Low levels of magnesium, which is called hypomagnesemia, can cause tremors, increased deep tendon reflexes, as well as dysrhythmias and seizures.

Next, we have phosphorus, which is an electrolyte that is essential for bone and teeth mineralization, cell structure, as well as energy production. The normal range for phosphorus is between 3 and 4.5 milligrams per deciliter. Our cool chicken hint to help you remember this range is phos-four-us is normally around 4. Dietary sources of phosphorus include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as fish, poultry, eggs, and legumes. One key thing to note about phosphorus is that it has an inverse relationship with calcium. So if calcium levels are high, phosphorus levels will be low. Therefore, when we have high levels of phosphorus, which is called hyperphosphatemia, we will have signs and symptoms of hypocalcemia such as muscle spasms. And then when we have low levels of phosphorus, which is called hypophosphatemia, we will have signs and symptoms of hypercalcemia such as bone pain, muscle weakness, and confusion.

The next electrolyte we're going to talk about is potassium, which is essential for the maintenance of ICF, which is intracellular fluid, as well as the regulation of muscle and heart contractions. The normal range for potassium is between 3.5 and 5 milliequivalents per liter. One cool chicken hint to help you remember this range is to think of bananas, which are high in potassium and often come in bunches of 3 to 5, which is the approximate range for potassium. You can also think of running a 5K, and K is the abbreviation for potassium, and a 5K is approximately 3.1 miles. Dietary sources of potassium include fruits such as bananas, apricots, orange juice, cantaloupe, and tomatoes, as well as vegetables such as potatoes, spinach, and broccoli. Other dietary sources include legumes, milk, and salt substitutes. So the main thing you need to know about potassium abnormalities is that they cause dysrhythmias. So whether we have high levels of potassium, which is called hyperkalemia, or low levels of potassium, which is called hypokalemia, they both cause dysrhythmias. And that is something you will definitely get tested on in nursing school.

And finally, we're going to talk about sodium, which is an electrolyte that is essential for nerve and muscle function as well as fluid volume maintenance. The normal range for sodium is between 136 and 145 milliequivalents per liter. Our cool chicken hint to help you remember this range is, if you shake a salt shaker, you will get approximately 136 to 145 grains of salt out of it, which contains sodium. Dietary sources of sodium include shellfish, meat, table salt, processed foods, and frozen foods. High levels of sodium, which is called hypernatremia, can cause thirst, lethargy, and confusion. Low levels of sodium, which is called hyponatremia, can cause confusion, nausea and vomiting, and seizures.

All right. It's quiz time. And in this particular quiz, I want you to name that electrolyte. So we went over five electrolytes, so there's a question for each one. You guys ready?

Question number one. Excess levels of blank can cause kidney stones and constipation.

The answer is calcium.

Question number two. Key dietary sources of blank include shellfish, frozen food, and processed food.

The answer is sodium.

Question number three. Calcium has an inverse relationship with blank.

The answer is phosphorus.

Question number four. Low levels of blank can cause tremors, increased deep tendon reflexes, dysrhythmias, and seizures.

The answer is magnesium.

Question number five. Key dietary sources of blank include bananas, cantaloupe, potatoes, and salt substitute.

The answer is potassium.

All right. That's it for this video. I hope you found it to be helpful. Thank you so much for watching, and good luck with studying.

[BLOOPERS]

Milk and salt-- the next electrolyte we're going to talk about is potassium, which is-- which is essential for maintaining ICF, which is-- it's essential.


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