What is High Potassium – Is It Potentially Fatal?

what is high potassium

What is High Potassium?

Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment Options For High Potassium

We are often told how good foods with potassium in them are, but for some people, too much potassium is quite dangerous, as we’re about to discuss.

High potassium, also known as hyperkalemia, is the medical term that it used to describe a potassium level in your blood that is higher than normal.
This can be very bad for your health and potentially fatal.
Read on to find out why.


normal potassium levels

What Are Normal Potassium Levels?

What Is Safe?

The normal potassium level in the blood is normally 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmo/L).

A potassium level that is higher than 6 mmo/L is considered to be unsafe and requires immediate medical attention. (1)

When the blood potassium levels reach the unsafe threshold, it is considered to be a state of hyperkalemia.

What is the role of potassium in the body?

Potassium is a very essential nutrient in your body. It is critical to the function muscle and nerve cells. Potassium plays a key role in a healthy, regulated heart beat.

Potassium plays a key role in a healthy, regulated heart beat.

What Does This Mean?

Anything above 6mmo/L puts you at risk and that number can rise if you’re not careful.



what is hyperkalemia

What Is Hyperkalemia?

Is It Really Dangerous?

This is the medical term for elevated potassium levels. At the lower end, it’s quite mild and not particularly dangerous, but as the saturation of potassium in the blood increases, it becomes very precarious.

We will cover the symptoms of high potassium in the segment further down, but at the very worst, if hyperkalemia is left untreated, it can actually result in a possible heart attack and potentially death, which is not well known by the general public.

So, Is It Really Dangerous?

Yes, it is potentially fatal, though that is quite rare as most cases are treated before this possibility.



symptoms of high potassium

What Are The Symptoms Of High Potassium?

Signs To Look For

A high level of potassium in your blood can affect the way your heart works. The following are some of the symptoms of High Potassium:

Slow heart rate

Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)




Tingling sensation

An inherited bur rare disorder known as Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis. (2)

This disorder can lead to sudden hyperkalemia accompanied by muscle paralysis.

In addition, it important to be aware of the fact that symptoms of high potassium may only become apparent when potassium levels in the blood are 6.0 mmo /L or greater.

What Can Be Determined From All This?

The symptoms seem like a general unwellness and may be hard to pinpoint potassium as the problem.  


High Potassium Foods To Avoid

High Potassium Foods To Avoid

What NOT To Eat If You’re Hyperkalemic

Obviously, for someone who finds themselves with hyperkalemia, they will be instructed to avoid high potassium foods at all costs, especially knowing just how dangerous the condition can get if too much potassium is consumed post diagnosis (potentially fatal).

If you have high potassium levels or just need to reduce some from your diet, we’ve put together a list of high potassium foods to avoid.

Try to reduce the following:

Edamame Pods (Fresh Soy Beans)
Sweet Potatoes
Swiss Chard (Silverbeet)
White Beans
Beetroot (Beets)
Black Beans


Most people are pretty well aware that bananas are a high potassium food, but the likes of watermelon, beets and plain yogurt might be surprising. Some canned sources of protein such as tuna and salmon can also be quite high in potassium.

There’s no need to actively avoid potassium foods unless a diagnosis of hyperkalemia has been determined.  Low potassium is called hypokalemia and is also a danger to one’s health meaning that deliberately cutting out potassium could lead to other problems.  A balance is definitely needed here.

Does This Mean We Should Avoid These Foods?

No, not at all, unless you have a high potassium issue.  Low potassium is also a problem, so don’t avoid these foods unnecessarily.



what causes high potassium

What Causes High Potassium?

Explaining The Origins

In most cases, high potassium is associated kidney problems, including:

Chronic kidney disease

Acute kidney failure

However, there are other causes of high potassium, including the following:

Taking the following drugs and supplement:

Potassium supplements in large quantities

Blood pressure drugs known as beta-blockers (3)

A blood thinner that is known as Heparin

NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications)

Adrenal failure (Addison’s disease)

Angiotensin –converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) – Azole anti- fungal drugs for treating vaginal yeast infections and other fungal infections.

Herbal supplements, such as lily of the valley, milkweed, Hawthorn berries, and Siberian ginseng.

The following are some other causes of high potassium:

Destruction of red blood cells as a result of burns or severe injury

High dietary intake of potassium rich foods

Heavy drug use or alcoholism, which may lead to rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle fibers that lead to the release of potassium into your bloodstream)

Type 1 diabetes

In some cases, a positive test for high potassium does not necessarily indicate true hyperkalemia; it may be as a result of the rupture of blood cells in the blood sample during or immediately after the blood draw.

What happens is that the potassium in the ruptured cells leaks into the sample, thus falsely raising the blood potassium level in the sample. This happens even when the potassium level in your blood is actually normal.

If this is suspected to have happened, a fresh blood sample should be given.

It certainly seems like the myriad of potential causes of high potassium are mostly not diet related.

What’s The Take Away From This?

Kidney problems and some medications seem to be a bigger risk factor than a high potassium diet.



how is high potassium diagnosed
How is High Potassium Diagnosed?

How Do They Find Hyperkalemia?

High Potassium can be difficult to diagnose because of the following reasons:

Its symptoms can be mild.

It can result from several different health problems.

Many of the symptoms are quite vague and unspecific.

Because of this, though testing is the best course of action.

To diagnose high potassium, your doctor will:

Examine you and listen to your heartbeat.

Ask you questions concerning your medical history, use of medications, and diet. It is very important to let the doctor know about all the medications you are taking, including OTC products, including herbs and other supplements.

Conduct some lab tests where necessary (this is in order for the doctor to check the level of potassium in your blood and urine).

Explain to you the specific results of the test, likely repeat the blood test where he or she finds the level of potassium in your blood too high,

Conduct an electrocardiograph known as ECG or EKG or order to check for problems with your heart rhythms. This test is used to record the electric activity of your heart which can be affected significantly by potassium levels.



high potassium treatment

What Is The Treatment For High Potassium Levels?

How Is Hyperkalemia Treated?

There are a number of treatment options available for treating Hyperkalemia. They include the following:

Low potassium diet

A low potassium diet consisting of about 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams of potassium per day can help treat this condition,

-Changing or stopping the consumption of medications that promote hyperkalemia,

-Lowering the level of potassium in your body by taking the required medications to help you do so.

These include:

1. Water Pills

These may help remove potassium through your urinary tract.

2. Sodium Polystyrene Sulfonate

SPS may help remove potassium through your digestive tract. (4)

3. Patiromer

This can help reduce the high level of potassium in your blood.

4. Ensuring That Your Kidney Disease Treated 

You can opt to go for dialysis because helps filter potassium from your blood, or use any other effective treatment option.

In some cases, the cause of hyperkalemia will determine the specific type of treatment that is required. Where you have a very high level of potassium in your blood, you will require emergency care, including IV medications. This is because this condition can be fatal.

What Does This Really Mean?

There are some solutions, but for someone with kidney issues, they will obviously need treatment first and foremost.



hyperkalemic conclusion summary

What is High Potassium?


It is very important to go for treatment if you experience all or some of the symptoms of High Potassium mentioned in this article. This is because an extremely high level of potassium in your blood can cause your heart to stop beating, leading to tohe possibility of death if left untreated.

As we’ve shown, there are a number of high potassium foods to avoid, if it becomes and issue, but the good news is that potassium levels in the blood can change relatively quickly, leading to a normalized blood saturation.

Healthy Preview trusts that you found this article “what is high potassium – is it potentially fatal?” to be informative.  We’d like to remind readers that the information here is not offered for the purposes of diagnoses, cure or treatment of illnesses or ailments and that if anyone has any suspected issues, they should please seek medical attention.


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S James

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