Advertisement - Scroll to continue

What is Hyperkalemia?

Although your body needs potassium, increased levels can be hazardous. In healthy people, the kidneys filter excess potassium from the blood with urine. When this process is impaired, it can lead to hyperkalemia. An average level of potassium in our blood is considered to be between 3.5 and 5.0 mEq/L.

Hyperkalemia is diagnosed when the potassium level is over 5.0 mEq/L. Hyperkalemia below 7 mEq/L is usually asymptomatic. However, severely increased potassium levels can cause life-threatening conditions like cardiac arrest or respiratory paralysis.


Potassium is a mineral essential for your organism's normal functioning. It's present in all body tissues being responsible for controlling how much water we have in our body and supporting electrical signals in our muscles and nerves. This means that an imbalance in potassium level may cause problems with blood pressure and muscle contractionsTrusted Source. Don't forget heart is a muscle so it also needs potassium to work. Potassium helps cells send the right electrical signals enabling the heart to pump blood. Having too much potassium in the body can affect the heart’s rhythm.

The chemical symbol for potassium is K from neo-Latin word ‘kalium'.


If you suffer from chronic hyperkalemia you probably won't have any symptoms even at increased levels of potassium. It is the rate of increase that matters here. People with sudden, more dramatic potassium shift will develop stronger symptoms. Hyperkalemia symptoms can include:

Hyperkalemia is confirmed with ECG and blood tests. Physical examination alongside obtaining a detailed medical history is also very important as not all patients will have typical changes in ECG. The blood test would usually be repeated as many different things can affect the serum potassium level, including the sample handing.

If you are at risk of hyperkalemia, it is important to have regular check ups. People prone to hyperkalemia due to ongoing health issues, past history of hyperkalemia or on high in potassium diet may not experience the symptoms until the potassium level is dangerously high.

Hyperkalemia: What Is, High Potassium Level Explained


Several reasons, including certain health conditions and use of medication, can cause hyperkalemia.

Potassium rich foods

The recommended intake of potassium for women is 2,600 mgTrusted Source per day and 3,400 mgTrusted Source a day for men. You should be able to get all the potassium you need from your daily diet, however most Americans don't meet this goal. Estimations are that the average daily intake of potassium in adult women is about 2,320 mg and 3,016 mg for adult men.

Potassium can be found in various foods like:

Hyperkalemia: What Is, High Potassium Level Explained

Foods that are safe to eat

If you have been diagnosed with high potassium blood level or a condition increasing your risk of hyperkalemia you should follow a low potassium diet. The following foods are safe for you to eat:

Treatment of hyperkalemia

The treatment plan will depend on the severity and the cause of it. Your medical professional will advise you to lower your intake of potassium by prescribing a low potassium diet. Low potassium diet allows 2,000 mg of potassium a day. Any medication causing the increase of potassium will be discontinued or changed. They may prescribe you diuretics which support the work of the kidneys and are often called ‘water pills'. Insulin and glucose can be used to drive potassium back into the cells.

If hyperkalemia is caused by kidney failure, hemodialysis should be performed.

In severe cases, the medical professionals will focus on protecting your heart from the impact hyperkalemia may have on your heart muscle. Calcium can be used to shield the heart from potassium toxicity's negative effects.

The prognosis is excellent for patients with mild hyperkalemia if treated without delay. Acute hyperkalemia can cause cardiac arrhythmias. These can lead to death in up to two-thirdsTrusted Source of cases if not rapidly treated.

It is very important to contact medical professionals if you find yourself having the symptoms.


Potassium is a very important mineral supporting the functioning of our heart, kidneys, nervous system and muscles. It also helps maintain normal fluid levels in the body. It is essential to ensure adequate intake of potassium in your diet however too much potassium can cause hyperkalemia. This is especially true if you have kidney disease, diabetes or take medicines lowering your blood pressure. If you have any symptoms of hyperkalemia, especially chest pains, you should immediately contact medical professionals.


June 26, 2023
5 minutes read

Table of Contents

Find a topic by its first letter
Hypokalemia: What Is, Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Treatment

Hypokalemia means potassium deficiency, a decrease in potassium in blood below 3.5 mmol/L. It can have various causes, and most… read more »

Kidney Infection: What It Is, Symptoms, Treatment, and More
Kidney Infection

Kidney infections are a heterogeneous group of diseases characterized by inflammation of one or both kidneys. What are the symptoms… read more »

Kidney Stones: What Is, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can form for a variety of reasons. Learn about factors that increase the risk of kidney stones. See… read more »

Rhabdomyolysis: What Is, Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Rhabdomyolysis is a disease in which skeletal muscle breakdown occurs, which is dangerous in its consequences. Learn about the causes… read more »

DASH Diet: What Is, Health Benefits, Guidelines, Risks, and Recipes

The DASH diet is a diet ideal for improving hypertension. In addition, it also has many other benefits. Learn about… read more »

Hydronephrosis: What Is, Risks, Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Hydronephrosis is a disease that can have serious complications. Find out how to recognise the condition so that appropriate treatment… read more »

Heart Attack: Symptoms, and Treatment
Heart Attack

Myocardial infarction is one of the most common causes of death. The main symptom of a heart attack is chest… read more »

Dehydration: What Is, Causes, Symptoms, Signs, and Levels

Dehydration can cause many negative health effects. It is a common problem in children and seniors. Learn how to recognize… read more »

Mediterranean Diet: What is, Effectiveness, Food, and Calories
Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a popular way of eating that has many health benefits. See how to improve your eating… read more »