How Potassium Affects Heart Health

Potassium is an important mineral for sustaining life, but there is also a saying that “something goes wrong.” Learn about potassium’s role in the body, why potassium homeostasis is key to heart health, and the different levels of potassium in food.

What is potassium?

Potassium is an important electrolyte that your body, especially your heart, nerves and muscles, needs to function properly.

Potassium regulates a wide range of physiological functions, including muscle contraction, regular heartbeat, and the movement of nutrients into cells and waste out of cells. A diet rich in potassium helps counteract some of the harmful effects of sodium on blood pressure.

Potassium and Heart Health

The rhythmic contraction of the heart is controlled by cyclical changes in the potential of the inner membrane of the heart muscle cells, known as action potentials.Cardiomyocytes).Potassium is essential for producing a regular heartbeat and stabilizing the heart, helping to avoid potentially fatal Arrhythmia.

Meeting your daily potassium needs helps keep your heart in top shape. Healthy potassium levels are between 3.5 and 5.0 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Both high and low potassium levels can cause or exacerbate heart failure.

Most of the potassium you need will be consumed in your diet. Potassium-rich foods help control blood pressure by reducing the effects of sodium. Potassium does this through its ability to promote sodium excretion in the urine and relieve tension in the walls of blood vessels.

Research has shown that increasing potassium intake can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, but the mechanism is unclear. Some researchers believe that potassium protects against atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, but more research is needed to support these claims.

low potassium levels

Low potassium levels in the blood, also called hypokalemia, can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:

  • medicines, such as diuretics (water pills) or certain antibiotics
  • diarrhea or vomiting
  • eating disorders (eg bulimia)
  • Hyperaldosteronism (excessive production of the male hormone aldosterone)
  • Overuse of laxatives, which can cause diarrhea
  • chronic kidney disease
  • low in magnesium
  • Excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
  • genetic diseases, such as hypokalemic periodic paralysis or Barth syndrome
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Mildly low potassium levels usually don’t cause any symptoms, but larger decreases can cause the following symptoms:

  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • constipate
  • muscle twitch
  • muscle cramps or weakness
  • muscle paralysis
  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • kidney problems

How does potassium affect high blood pressure?

high potassium levels

Too much potassium in the blood, a condition called Hyperkalemia, may be harmful to your heart health. The kidneys are responsible for maintaining the balance of potassium in the blood. The following conditions may put you at risk for hyperkalemia:

  • chronic kidney disease
  • diabetes
  • congestive heart failure
  • Drugs that disrupt potassium balance, such as certain blood pressure lowering drugs
  • Severe burns or trauma to the body
  • chronic alcoholism

At first, you may not notice any symptoms, but hyperkalemia may cause the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal (abdominal) pain and diarrhea
  • chest pain
  • palpitations or Arrhythmia (irregular, fast, or fluttering heartbeat)
  • Weakness or numbness in the limbs
  • nausea and vomiting

When to seek medical assistance

Severe hyperkalemia can lead to cardiac arrest and death. At first, you may not notice any symptoms, but hyperkalemia may cause the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal (abdominal) pain and diarrhea
  • chest pain
  • palpitations or Arrhythmia (irregular, fast, or fluttering heartbeat)
  • Weakness or numbness in the limbs
  • nausea and vomiting

If you have any of these symptoms, call an ambulance or go to the emergency room right away.

dietary sources of potassium

Potassium is an essential nutrient found naturally in many foods and in all body tissues. Potassium levels are tightly regulated because it is required for normal cell function. This mineral helps maintain the balance between intracellular fluid volume and transmembrane electrochemical gradients.

Although potassium supplements are available, most people can get the potassium they need from the food they eat and the fluids they drink. Foods rich in potassium include:

  • Apricots and Apricot Juice
  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • brown rice
  • Cantaloupe and Honeydew
  • coffee and tea
  • Skim or low-fat (1%) milk
  • nonfat yogurt
  • most fish
  • milk
  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice (consult your healthcare provider if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medication)
  • leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
  • halibut
  • lima beans
  • mushroom
  • Oranges and Orange Juice
  • pea
  • Potatoes (white and sweet)
  • Plums and plum juice
  • Raisins and Dates
  • Tomatoes, Tomato Juice and Tomato Sauce
  • tuna

plan a low-potassium diet

High potassium levels in the blood can cause serious heart problems, especially if you are at high risk for heart failure, but before you severely restrict potassium in your diet, you may want to talk to a healthcare professional about the risks of high potassium And how a low-potassium diet can help.

what to eat with hyperkalemia

Talk to your healthcare provider

Seek immediate medical attention if you are at high risk for hyperkalemia or hypokalemia or if you experience any of the above symptoms. Dietary changes can help prevent and treat high or low potassium levels.

Talk to a healthcare professional about any risks you may be at for hypokalemia or hyperkalemia, as they may recommend foods you may need to limit, avoid, or increase based on your potassium status.


Potassium is good for the heart and is abundant in the food we eat and the fluids we drink, but too much can cause serious heart problems, especially in people with diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease who are at high risk of heart failure . Before starting low potassium, do a dietary review with a healthcare professional to safely plan your sessions.

VigorTip words

The body does a good job of tightly regulating potassium levels, and most of the time, if your levels are slightly higher or lower, you won’t experience symptoms. What’s more, most U.S. adults get moderate amounts of potassium in their diets through milk, coffee, tea, other non-alcoholic beverages, bananas, avocados, and potatoes, and don’t have to change their diets or use potassium supplements to meet their daily needs.

This may not be the case if your condition weakens your heart. You may need to pay close attention to the amount of potassium you consume. But before making any major changes to your diet, consult with a healthcare professional who will help you adjust your diet in the safest way possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does potassium affect your heart rate?

    High potassium levels in the blood can trigger an irregular heartbeat, sometimes accompanied by a racing heartbeat and chest discomfort. If left untreated, severe hyperkalemia can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

  • Does Drinking More Water Help Lower Potassium?

    It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated, especially drinking water because it’s vital to maintaining electrolyte balance, but drinking too much can lead to a loss of potassium in the urine, sometimes life-threatening, and sometimes called water intoxication.

  • Is there a way to remove excess potassium from the body?

    Water pills, also called diuretics, are often used to help flush out excess potassium from the body. They work by causing your kidneys to produce more urine, expelling potassium in the process. The drug Kayexalate (sodium polystyrene sulfonate) is also used to treat high potassium because it removes potassium through the intestines before it can be absorbed by the body.