For individuals navigating the complexities of kidney health, understanding and managing potassium levels are paramount. Let’s look into the basics of potassium management:
What is Potassium and what does it do to the body?
Potassium is a mineral that controls nerve and muscle function. The heart beats at a normal rhythm because of potassium. Potassium is also necessary for maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and pH level. In order for potassium to perform these functions, blood levels must be kept between 3.5 and 5.5 mEq/L. The kidneys help keep potassium at a normal level.
When is potassium too low or too high?
Potassium comes from the foods we eat. Healthy kidneys remove excess potassium in the urine to help maintain normal levels in the blood. Because most foods have potassium, low potassium (hypokalemia) is uncommon in people who eat a healthy diet. Some of the effects of low potassium include muscle weakness, cramping and fatigue.
When kidneys fail they can no longer remove excess potassium, so the level builds up in the body. High potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia, which may occur in people with advanced stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Some of the effects of high potassium are nausea, weakness, numbness and slow pulse.
For people with stage 5 CKD (also known as end stage kidney disease or ESKD), dialysis is necessary to help regulate potassium. Between dialysis treatments, however, potassium levels rise and high-potassium foods must be limited.
Have your potassium levels checked regularly and ask your renal dietitian or doctor about your potassium results.
Arming yourself with knowledge is the first step toward effective potassium management for kidney patients. By understanding the basics, making informed dietary choices, and leveraging valuable resources, you can take proactive steps toward better kidney health.
For 7 tips to managing potassium and a few low-potassium recipes, too,click this link!
This information is a general guide, and it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare providers for personalized advice and recommendations. Stay informed, stay proactive, and prioritize your kidney health journey.