An electrolyte is a substance that splits into ions when placed into water. An ion is an electrically charged particle that is either positively or negatively charged. A positively charged ion is called a cation and a negatively charged ion is called an anion.

• Sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+) , and Magnesium (Mg++) are electrolytes that are cations.

• Chloride (Cl-), Bicarbonate (HCO3), Phosphate (PO4), and Sulfate (SO4) are electrolytes that are anions.

An electrolyte is measured as a millimole per liter (mmol/L). A millimole is the atomic weight of the electrolyte in milligrams. For example, the atomic weight of sodium is 23 milligrams. Therefore, 23 milligrams of sodium is measured as 1 mmol of sodium.

An electrolyte is stored either intracellularly (inside the cell) or extracellu-larly (outside the cell).

Intracellular electrolytes are mainly potassium, magnesium and some calcium. Extracellular electrolytes are mainly sodium and some calcium.

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