There’s an old adage that you can get too much of a good thing. That holds true for many things, including important nutrients, such as potassium. You can get too much potassium and the results can be dangerous. Potassium is a necessary mineral that functions as an electrolyte, too. It helps maintain the body by making muscles work, which includes the heart and breathing muscles. Normally, if you have excess potassium, it’s removed from the blood via the kidneys.
High potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia.
Too much potassium in the blood is dangerous. It can cause heart attack and even death. However, like many problems in the body, it’s also quite sneaky and doesn’t show symptoms until the problem becomes serious and causes a heart attack or impairs heart health. Kidney disease and failure can impede that removal, which also means too much remains in the blood. However, other things can be linked to the problem, which include dehydration, type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease and even internal bleeding. Some medications, supplementation, alcohol use and trauma can also cause the problem.
What are the symptoms of high potassium?
While some people have no symptoms at all, others may have tiredness or weakness. Numbness may be another symptom, just as nausea or vomiting is. People can have palpitations, trouble breathing, irregular heartbeats or chest pain. These symptoms may not appear, but if they do, it shows there are very high levels in the blood. Extreme cases can cause paralysis or even heart failure.
If you’re healthy, you don’t need supplements.
Foods that are high in potassium include bananas, beans, milk, melons, orange juice, nuts, potatoes, apricots, beef and cod. If you want to get adequate potassium, make sure you include them in your diet. If you find you have too much potassium limit these foods. Check out the salt substitutes to make sure they aren’t adding to high potassium amounts. If potassium chloride is an ingredient, avoid it if you want to reduce your potassium intake. Commercial baked goods and even sports drinks may be high in potassium.
- Dehydration can actually increase potassium levels and make them worse. Stay adequately hydrated. Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Keep water with you and sip throughout the day.
- Make sure any herbal supplements you take don’t add to your potassium intake if you already have a problem. Nettle, alfalfa and dandelion will increase your potassium levels.
- Rather than self-diagnose, always check with your health care professional. Get regular blood tests if you’re a person at risk for high potassium or ask your health care professional if you should, if you have some of the symptoms.
- Many of the symptoms of low potassium, such as heart palpitations, muscle cramps, digestive problems, weakness and fatigue, are also symptoms of high potassium. That’s why it’s always best to check with your health care professional rather than self-diagnose.
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