Potassium is an essential electrolyte macromineral. Essential because it is critical to the function of your nerves and muscles.
Adjusting high or low potassium levels back to homeostasis is a kidney task. An out of potassium balance condition can lead to hyperkalemia or hypokalemia disorders.
Hyperkalemia is the termed used for high potassium levels in blood. True hyperkalemia is very often caused by impaired kidney function and/or a lack of aldersterone. Both can have a detrimental affect on your kidney’s urinary excretion of excess potassium.
The most common disease causing hyperkalemia is acute or chronic kidney failure. Some other causes for high potassium levels are:
- severe injury
- adrenal failure
- lupus nephritis
- hemolytic anemia
- Addison’s disease
- sickle cell disease
- Fanconi syndrome
- hormone deficiencies
- gastrointestinal bleeding
- certain medications ~ ACE inhibitors
- excessive potassium supplementation
- glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency
- potassium sparing diuretics ~ spironolactone, amiloride, triamterene
Alcoholism and heavy drug can cause a breakdown of muscle fibers. This process releases potassium into your bloodstream, and has the potential to create a hyperkalemia situation.
Having a high potassium level is often symptomless, but it can cause:
True hyperkalemia is a serious, potentially life threatening, disorder.
Hypokalemia is a metabolic disorder marked by potassium levels in your blood dropping too low. Excessive potassium loss through urine or your gastrointestinal tract is the main cause for this drop.
Health related situations for causing a low hypokalemia blood potassium are circumstances like:
- laxative abuse
- eating disorders
- kidney problems
- profuse sweating
- excessive vomiting
- acetaminophen overdose
- impaired kidney function
- not enough dietary potassium
- antibiotics ~ carbenicillin, gentamicin, amphotericin B
Rarely, is hypokalemia a result of not consuming enough dietary potassium.
There are some diseases that disturb your kidney’s ability to preserve potassium causing low potassium levels, such as:
Symptoms you may experience when your potassium is low include:
- muscle cramps
- muscle spasms
- muscle weakness
- abnormal heart rhythms
- muscle fiber breakdown
Very low levels of potassium can be life threatening.
Treatment for hypokalemia may include potassium supplements. And eating a diet rich in potassium can help treat and prevent hypokalemia. Several high potassium foods for dietary inclusion consideration:
- lima beans
- peanut butter
- brussels sprouts
Worth a dietary note is that salt substitutes and low salt packaged foods may have high levels of potassium.
A recent study revealed that consuming insufficient potassium rich foods may be a health risk factor for high blood pressure.