News - Potassium and CKD - What You Need to Know


Potassium is an important mineral found throughout our bodies. Potassium is a substance that conducts electricity (called an electrolyte) and plays a very important role in keeping your heartbeat regular and your muscles working properly.

When kidneys are healthy, they keep the right amount of potassium in your body. Potassium levels that are too high or too low can cause health problems. When kidneys are not working properly, they have trouble removing potassium from the body. Without the ability to remove excess potassium, levels can rise and lead to serious health problems.

Hyperkalemia is a condition where potassium levels in the body are too high. Kidney disease is the most common cause of hyperkalemia. Symptoms may include weakness, numbness and tingling. If potassium levels become too high, a patient may experience an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack.

Therefore, if you have kidney disease, you need to limit certain foods that are higher in potassium, to avoid dangerous levels of potassium in your blood. Your dietitian can work with you not only to avoid potassium-rich foods, but to figure out which foods you like that are lower in potassium.

Many foods contain higher amounts of potassium, including meat, nuts and dairy products. Certain fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, bananas and tomatoes are also high in potassium. Salt substitutes usually contain potassium and should be avoided if you have kidney disease. Foods that are lower in potassium include apples, berries, rice and pasta. Your dietitian will help you plan your diet so you are getting the right amount of potassium.

Some medications may also increase the amount of potassium in the body. These include certain types of antibiotics, antifungals and blood pressure medications.

It is also important to avoid potassium levels that are too low, which is a condition called hypokalemia.

You can discuss your potassium levels with your healthcare team. Your healthcare team will help you maintain your proper levels of potassium and determine the diet and medications that are right for you.