High Potassium (Hyperkalemia)

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Definition

What is high potassium?

Potassium is an essential electrolyte, which is a mineral your body needs to function correctly. Potassium is especially important for your nerves and muscles, including your heart. While potassium is important to your health, getting toomuch of the nutrient can be just as bad as, or worse than, not getting enough. Normally, your kidneys keep a healthy balance of potassium by flushing excess potassium out of your body. But for many reasons, the level of potassium in your blood can get too high. This is called hyperkalemia, or high potassium.

Your blood potassium level is normally 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Having a blood potassium level higher than 6.0 mmol/L can be dangerous and usually requires immediate treatment.

How common is high potassium?

High potassium is a common problem. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Which signs and symptoms can high potassium usually be associated with?

Related signs and symptoms include:

  • Tiredness or weakness
  • A feeling of numbness or tingling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations or irregular heartbeats

Causes

What causes high potassium?

Causes of high potassium can include:

  • Kidney failure. Kidney failure is the most common cause of high potassium. When your kidneys fail or don’t function properly, they can’t remove extra potassium from your body. This can lead to potassium buildup.
  • Other health conditions. High potassium can also be linked to certain health problems, such asdehydration, type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, and internal bleeding.
  • Medications. Certain medications have been linked with high potassium levels. These includecertain chemotherapy drugs, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, among others.
  • Supplements. Overuse of potassium supplements can increase your potassium levels to a range that’s higher than normal or even dangerous.
  • Alcohol or drug use. Heavy alcohol or drug use can cause your muscles to break down. This breakdown can release a high amount of potassium from your muscle cells into your bloodstream.
  • Trauma. Certain kinds of trauma can raise your potassium levels as well. In these cases, extra potassium leaks from your body cells into your bloodstream. Burns or crush injuries where a large number of muscle cells are injured can cause these effects.

The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of high potassium. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for high potassium?

You are more likely to experience high potassium level if you have any of the conditions mentioned above.

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

When to see your doctor

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any of the symptoms above and you’ve been diagnosed with high potassium or have reason to think you have it, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are severe, call an ambulance or go to the nearest emergency room.

If you have extremely high potassium levels, you’ll need to be hospitalized until your levels return to normal.

On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage high potassium?

These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with high potassium:

  • Reduce your potassium intake. One of the easiest ways to lower your potassium levels naturally is to reduce the amount of potassium in your diet. This means limiting foods and supplements that are high in potassium.Some foods that are high in potassium include bananas, nuts, beans, milk, potatoes, apricots, cod, beef, etc.
  • Check your salt substitutes. Some salt substitutes are also high in potassium. When you buy a salt substitute, make sure to avoid any that list potassium chloride as an ingredient. Foods that are high in additives, such as commercial baked goods and sports drinks, are also usually high in potassium.
  • Drink more water. Dehydration can make high potassium levels worse. Try to drink more water.
  • Avoid certain herbs. If you take herbs for any reason, be aware that there are a few herbs you should not take if you have high potassium levels. Alfalfa, nettle, and dandelion can increase your potassium levels, so be sure to avoid them.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 11, 2019 | Last Modified: January 11, 2019

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