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Diet and Nutrition

Cause of excess potassium

07/11/2000

Question:

Was trying to find the cause of excess potassium in the body. Is it dietary?

Answer:

Thanks for your question. Hyperkalemia (a high blood potassium level) may be due to several causes.

Potassium is a water-soluble nutrient, therefore, the level of potassium in the blood is controlled by the kidneys. If you consumed too many foods high in potassium (such as bananas, kiwis or oranges), your kidneys would filter out any excess potassium that it didn`t need. Potassium excess would be lost in urine.

That said, one cause of hyperkalemia is kidney failure or "renal" (kidney) insufficiency. People may develop kidney failure due to uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes or other disease such as lupus.

Another cause of hyperkalemia is medication. Medications which aid in blood pressure control (such as captopril or lisinopril) may contribute to high blood potassium levels. A person being treated for high blood pressure would likely have blood drawn periodically to assess levels of nutrients (such as potassium) in the blood.

If blood potassium is high (for whatever reason), a physician may prescribe medication to lower it. In addition, a person should limit foods high in potassium to prevent hyperkalemia. These foods include oranges, orange juice, bananas, kiwi, tomatoes, dried beans, melon, sweet and white potatoes and several other fruits and vegetables. Salt substitute (which contains potassium chloride) is also a source of potassium which should be limited.

There are no symptoms of hyperkalemia, but it can be a deadly. Because potassium aids in muscle contraction, it affects the heart. Hyperkalemia may cause a cardiac arrhythmia, which may result in cardiac arrest.

I hope this information was helpful. If your doctor has told you that you have hyperkalemia, request a referral to a Registered Dietitian for information on foods to eat and those to avoid. Good Luck!

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati