Hyperkalemia and How You Can Manage It

Hyperkalemia is probably not a word you come across unless you or someone you know is diagnosed with it. It basically refers to a body having an above normal level of potassium in the blood. While usually treatable, extreme levels of potassium can result in a cardiac arrest or even death, and therefore should be detected and controlled.

Your body utilises the potassium it needs. The extra potassium is then released through your blood via your kidneys. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys cannot remove extra potassium in the right way implying the blood has larger amounts of potassium in it.
The human body requires only a small amount of potassium in order to keep the blood and muscles working smoothly. However, if the kidneys do not work properly, causing the potassium to build up, Hyperkalemia can occur. Certain medications, uncontrolled diabetes, and some diseases of the adrenal gland can also cause this condition.

Hyperkalemia does not generally exhibit specific symptoms, but usually include weakness, tiredness, or nausea. Troubled breathing, chest pain, cramping of muscles are also some of the symptoms of Hyperkalemia. It can be detected via blood tests or through an ECG/EKG (electrocardiogram), which is a test that records a heart’s electrical activity.

Some of the most common cause of high potassium is kidney disease are listed below:

  • Some specific medicines
  • Dehydration
  • Unregulated diabetes
  • Injuries that cause severe bleeding
  • Some rare diseases

High potassium levels can be controlled or reduced through diet and/or medicine. Kidney disease treatments such as dialysis can also help filter out excess potassium from the body. Certain food items such as salt substitutes, or even fruits such as melons, oranges, and bananas are rich in potassium. Avoid these if you are looking to lower potassium levels through a diet. Higher levels of potassium in your blood can be extremely dangerous. Potassium affects the way your heart’s muscles work and due to the excess potassium levels, your heart may beat irregularly, which in the worst cases, can cause a heart attack.

For more information regarding Hyperkalemia, or if you are experiencing any acute symptoms mentioned above, a consultation with a doctor would be advisable.

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