High potassium, or hyperkalemia, is when your blood potassium levels are greater than 5.0 mmol/L. If left untreated, hyperkalemia may lead to cardiovascular diseases like arrhythmia or heart failure.

Potassium is an important mineral that supports healthy cell, nerve, and muscle functions in your body.

It’s found in all sorts of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy products.

That said, having too much potassium in your blood may impact the muscles that control your heartbeat and breathing.

This may gradually cause:

  • muscle numbness, tingling, or weakness
  • weak or irregular heartbeat
  • digestive problems
  • abdominal cramps

Hyperkalemia could also put you at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as:

  • arrhythmia
  • heart disease
  • heart attack
  • heart failure

Cardiovascular diseases are a significant health risk in the United States. In 2021, they led to approximately 695,000 deaths.

Keep reading to learn more about the link between hyperkalemia and cardiovascular disease.

When to get medical help

In some cases, too much potassium in your body may cause severe symptoms to come on rapidly. This may lead to heart failure, heart attack, or be life-threatening.

Get medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea, vomiting, or fainting
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Hyperkalemia happens when your blood potassium levels go above the healthy range of 3.5 and 5.0 mmol/L.

In 2014, an estimated 1.55% of people in the United States had too much potassium in their bodies.

The most common cause of hyperkalemia is chronic kidney disease (CKD). Your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products and fluid from the bloodstream, which then leave your body through urination.

However, if your kidneys are damaged or impaired, they may not function properly.

Up to 73% of people with CKD develop hyperkalemia.

Other causes of hyperkalemia may also include:

  • taking medications that prevent the normal excretion of potassium
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • Addison’s disease
  • eating too much potassium if you have advanced CKD

Potassium helps support and maintain the functions of your heart.

More specifically, it helps the electric signaling of your myocardium. This is the muscle that contracts and relaxes to pump blood into your heart and out to the rest of your body.

However, too much potassium may cause your heart to beat irregularly.

This is called arrhythmia, which happens when the electrical impulses that direct and regulate your heartbeats don’t function properly.

It may interfere with the blood flow to your organs, potentially causing organ damage, a heart attack, or death.

If you have a cardiovascular disease, it’s critical to monitor your blood potassium levels, eat a balanced diet, and check in with a doctor.

Keeping your blood potassium level in a healthy range is key. This could help prevent hyperkalemia and avoid heart-related complications.

That said, if you have hyperkalemia, a doctor may recommend a treatment plan to help you control your blood potassium levels.

This may include medications, including:

  • dialysis, which filters your blood
  • diuretics, which promote potassium excretion in your urine
  • potassium binders, which bind to excess potassium in the bowels and remove it in your stool

A doctor may also suggest avoiding or limiting certain foods, such as:

  • avocados
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • asparagus
  • winter squash
  • cooked spinach
  • oranges
  • kiwi
  • cantaloupe
  • bananas
  • nectarines
  • dried fruit, including raisins and prunes
  • salt substitutes
  • dairy products

Keep in mind that a low blood potassium level may cause the blood vessels in your heart to stiffen. Low levels have also been linked to stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

It’s important to speak with a doctor to establish a treatment plan that works best for you.

What are the symptoms of high potassium cardiac?

In some cases, potassium may cause severe symptoms to come on suddenly, such as:

  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea, vomiting, or fainting

Get immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms. This may lead to heart failure, heart attack, or be life-threatening.

At what level does potassium cause heart problems?

Healthy potassium blood levels are between 3.5 and 5.0 mmol/L.

Symptoms of hyperkalemia may appear when your blood level is above 5.0 mmol/L. Severe symptoms typically occur between 6.5-7 mmol/L.

Potassium is a crucial mineral that helps maintain the healthy function of your heart, cells, and muscles.

However, striking the proper balance in your blood is key. Too much potassium is known as hyperkalemia and may cause discomfort, cardiovascular diseases, or death.

It’s important to speak with a doctor if you experience any symptoms of hyperkalemia, or if you’re at risk of a cardiovascular disease.