A normal blood potassium is 3.6 to 5.2 mmol/L. Severe and life threatening hypokalemia level is known as <2.5mmol/L. Since potassium is critical to the proper functioning of nerve and muscle fibers, hypokalemia can require urgent medical attention.
Accordingly, can hypokalemia lead to death?
Hypokalemia is associated with increased risk of arrhythmia in patients with cardiovascular disease, as well as increased all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality and heart failure mortality by up to 10-fold. Long-term potassium homeostasis depends on renal potassium excretion.
Low Potassium Symptoms
- Weakness, tiredness, or cramping in arm or leg muscles, sometimes severe enough to cause inability to move arms or legs due to weakness (much like a paralysis)
- Tingling or numbness.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Abdominal cramping, bloating.
- Palpitations (feeling your heart beat irregularly)
A small drop in potassium level often does not cause symptoms, which may be mild, and may include:
- Feeling of skipped heart beats or palpitations.
- Muscle damage.
- Muscle weakness or spasms.
- Tingling or numbness.
In short, aim to consume 3,500–4,700 mg of this mineral per day from foods. People who need more potassium should aim towards the higher end. Summary: A healthy adult should aim to consume 3,500–4,700 mg of potassium daily from foods. Certain groups of people should aim to consume at least 4,700 mg per day.
Learn to identify these symptoms of hypokalemia to know when it's necessary to seek medical help:
- Rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown)
- Weakness or muscle spasms.
- Dysrythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) especially in patients with heart disease.
- Paralysis, possibly in the lungs.
This falsely raises the amount of potassium in the blood sample, even though the potassium level in your body is actually normal. When this is suspected, a repeat blood sample is done. The most common cause of genuinely high potassium (hyperkalemia) is related to your kidneys, such as: Acute kidney failure.
In hypokalemia, the level of potassium in blood is too low.
- A low potassium level has many causes but usually results from vomiting, diarrhea, adrenal gland disorders, or use of diuretics.
- A low potassium level can make muscles feel weak, cramp, twitch, or even become paralyzed, and abnormal heart rhythms may develop.
Here's how many milligrams (mg) of potassium you'll get from these potassium-rich foods:
- Winter squash, cubed, 1 cup, cooked: 896 mg.
- Sweet potato, medium, baked with skin: 694 mg.
- Potato, medium, baked with skin: 610 mg.
- White beans, canned, drained, half cup: 595 mg.
- Yogurt, fat-free, 1 cup: 579 mg.
The symptoms of hypokalemia are nonspecific and predominantly are related to muscular or cardiac function. Complaints may include the following: Weakness and fatigue (most common) Muscle cramps and pain (severe cases)
This treatment is similar to the treatment of severe hypokalemia. If the potassium level is less than 2.5 mEq/L, intravenous potassium should be given. Maintain close follow-up care, provide continuous ECG monitoring, and check serial potassium levels. Higher dosages may increase the risk of cardiac complications.
Examples of potassium rich foods include:
- Fresh fruits: bananas, cantaloupe, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, avocados, apricots.
- Fresh vegetables: greens, mushrooms, peas, beets, tomatoes.
- Meats: beef, fish, turkey,
- Juices: Orange, prune, apricot, grapefruit.
The normal potassium level in the blood is 3.5-5.0 milliEquivalents per liter (mEq/L). Potassium levels between 5.1 mEq/L to 6.0 mEq/L are considered to be mild hyperkalemia.
If you have hyperkalemia, you have too much potassium in your blood. The body needs a delicate balance of potassium to help the heart and other muscles work properly. But too much potassium in your blood can lead to dangerous, and possibly deadly, changes in heart rhythm.
It can cause:
- Muscle fatigue.
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
It is critical to the proper functioning of nerve and muscles cells, particularly heart muscle cells. Normally, your blood potassium level is 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). A very low potassium level (less than 2.5 mmol/L) can be life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.
Why potassium helps to lower blood pressure. Potassium is a key mineral that the body relies on heavily to function properly. It helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt. Your kidneys help to control your blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid stored in your body.
Causes. Low potassium (hypokalemia) has many causes. The most common cause is excessive potassium loss in urine due to prescription medications that increase urination. Vomiting, diarrhea or both also can result in excessive potassium loss from the digestive tract.
In most cases, low potassium is found by a blood test that is done because of an illness, or because you are taking diuretics. It is rare for low potassium to cause isolated symptoms such as muscle cramps if you are feeling well in other respects. Low potassium symptoms may include: Weakness.
Clinical signs include muscle weakness, cramping, fasciculations, paralytic ileus, and when hypokalemia is severe, hypoventilation, and hypotension. ECG changes typically occur when serum potassium is < 3 mEq/L, and include ST segment sagging, T wave depression, and U wave elevation.
Hyponatremia occurs when the concentration of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. Sodium is an electrolyte, and it helps regulate the amount of water that's in and around your cells. When this happens, your body's water levels rise, and your cells begin to swell.