High potassium is actually hyperkalemia, a condition that can be serious.
If you have hyperkalemia, which can be a chronic condition, potassium levels in your blood are higher than normal. It may not seem serious at first, but there can be life-threatening consequences.
The fact is, your high potassium levels can recur, spike, or remain high. This can lead to severe complications, such as fatal irregular heartbeats.
People with certain health conditions or on certain medications may have a higher chance of developing hyperkalemia.
Certain kidney problems
High blood pressure
Certain medications for blood pressure or heart
What happens if you don’t manage hyperkalemia?
Left unmanaged, hyperkalemia may result in serious issues, including weakness, nausea, potentially fatal irregular heartbeats, and paralysis. But there are things you can do to help keep your potassium level under control.
What does potassium do in your body?
Potassium is a nutrient that helps certain cells work. The right levels of potassium are necessary to keep your muscles, nerves, and heart working well and are important for digestive and bone health.
You can find out your potassium levels through routine blood tests ordered by your doctor. Any potassium level over 5.0 mmol/L can be considered high and potentially dangerous. Ask your doctor about your potassium levels and if you may need a medication to help remove the excess potassium from your body to help treat hyperkalemia.
Slide the box to learn about potassium levels
Blood potassium level between 3.5 and 5.0 mmol/L
Blood potassium level less than 3.5 mmol/L
Blood potassium level more than 5.0 mmol/L
*Like high potassium, low potassium can also potentially cause serious health issues.
Types of hyperkalemia
Hyperkalemia can be classified according to blood potassium level into mild, moderate, and severe. But no matter which type of hyperkalemia you have, it's important to work with your healthcare provider to keep your potassium levels down.
- Your potassium level is increased (>5.0 to <5.5 mmol/L)
- You may not have any symptoms, or you may have mild and nonspecific symptoms, such as nausea, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness
- Your potassium level is increased (5.5 to 6.0 mmol/L)
- You may have mild symptoms such as weakness or fatigue
- Your potassium level is very high (>6.0 mmol/L)
- You may have severe symptoms, such as muscle pain, loss of muscle function, and rapid, strong, or irregular heartbeat
- Having a blood potassium level higher than 6.0 mmol/L can be dangerous and may require immediate treatment
Did you know that potassium is found in many foods?
Your healthcare provider or a dietitian may help you plan your diet to make sure you are not consuming too much potassium through the foods you eat. But of course, it’s important that you continue to maintain a healthy diet. As a general guide, here are some foods you may want to include, limit, or avoid:
Apples, berries (such as strawberries and blueberries), cherries, cranberries and cranberry juice, grapes, peaches, pineapple, and plums
Raw cabbage, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, onion, peppers, and zucchini
White bread, coffee (limit to 8 ounces), noodles, white pasta, rice, and tea (limit to 16 ounces)
Apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupes, dried fruits, grapefruit juice, honeydew melons, kiwis, mangos, nectarines, orange juice, pomegranates, prunes, and raisins
Artichokes, beets, broccoli (cooked), Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes (white and sweet), pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, squash (acorn and butternut), and vegetable juices
Bran products, beans (baked beans, lentils), milk, nuts, whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread, chocolate, and salt substitutes
The symptoms of hyperkalemia can actually be very mild, and sometimes you may not feel any symptoms at all. Oftentimes, hyperkalemia is only detected by routine bloodwork. Talk to your healthcare provider if you begin to feel any of these symptoms:
- Muscle fatigue
- Tingling or unusual sensations
Serious warning signs
If there is very high potassium in the blood or if symptoms below show, hyperkalemia can be life threatening. If you begin to experience any of these serious warning signs, seek immediate medical assistance:
- Fluttering or pounding heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
Don’t delay. Call 911 or go to the emergency room. Sudden elevations in potassium above certain levels can be a life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care.
LOKELMA is indicated for the treatment of hyperkalemia in adults.
LOKELMA should not be used as an emergency treatment for life-threatening hyperkalemia because of its delayed onset of action.
How much do you know about hyperkalemia?
Hyperkalemia is important for you to manage because it could potentially lead to serious issues. But how much do you really know about it? It’s time to test your knowledge with a quick quiz.