Kidney 553


What is Potassium?



Potassium is a mineral found throughout your body that is essential to your health. It is one of the most abundant electrolytes, meaning an electrically charged mineral in the body, helping your nerves to function and muscles to contract.

It helps your heartbeat stay regular, it helps to conduct nerve impulses and also helps to move nutrients and other compounds in and out of cells. Potassium is predominantly present inside cells throughout the body, and its level in the liquid portion of blood is regulated by the kidneys. Most of the recommended amount of potassium is derived from the food we eat.

A normal potassium level indicates that your overall electrolyte balance is normal, resulting in a healthy fluid balance, pH balance, nerve function and muscle function.

Since potassium together with other electrolytes such as sodium and chloride are involved in controlling fluid balance, pH balance and functions dependent on the conduction capacity (muscle function and nerve function), measuring potassium levels can be used to monitor these functions and various conditions which affect them.

Examples of conditions of relevance for potassium monitoring include high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes and heart disease.



Low levels of Potassium



Low potassium levels, also known as hypokalemia, most often indicate increased loss of potassium through the kidneys via certain diuretics. Excessive diarrhea, vomiting or severe burns may also result in reduced potassium levels.

A common dietary cause of lower potassium levels is high intake of licorice. Various additional conditions which can cause decreased levels of potassium in blood are high levels of the hormone aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism), kidney disease and malnutrition.



High levels of Potassium



High levels of potassium, also known as hyperkalemia, may indicate that the kidneys aren’t properly removing excess potassium as they should, or that there is a deficiency of the hormone aldosterone.

High intake of potassium through medication or conditions where potassium is released out of cells such as in advanced diabetes, can also result in increased levels. Although rarely the case, slightly elevated levels can be found in dehydrated people or after high intake of potassium rich foods such as banana or avocado.

Important note: High levels of potassium can indicate a serious medical condition which needs immediate medical attention. This usually comes with associated symptoms or other deviating test results, and should be interpreted by a healthcare professional.