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Providing kidney diet advice and recipes to educate and
empower people with Chronic Kidney Disease.
The Irish Kidney Diet website has been developed by CORU registered Renal Dietitians.

Protect your Heart – learn about potassium

‘A high potassium level in your blood stream is serious and can cause an irregular heart beat leading to a crisis medical situation and in some cases a heart attack. Learn more about potassium here and how your kidney diet plays a key role in protecting your heart and maintaining your safety’

What is Potassium?

Potassium is a mineral. It is found in many foods in different amounts. Some foods are known to be higher in potassium than others, for example: potatoes, fruit, vegetables, dairy foods (milk based foods) and protein foods (meat, poultry, fish and eggs).

You will hear these foods referred to as High Potassium Foods.


What is the function of Potassium?

Potassium’s main function is in muscle contraction. It helps control the contraction of the heart.


What should my levels be?

It is important that you understand what a normal level is and also know your own potassium level. On average a normal potassium level in our blood is between 3.5-5 mmol/L. Anything above 5mmol/l indicates a high potassium level (please note laboratory reference ranges may differ from hospital to hospital. Ask you Kidney (Renal) Dietitian what reference ranges are used in your hospital).


What causes a high Potassium level?

When you eat a food high in potassium, the level of potassium in your blood will increase. One of the functions of the kidney is to clear this excess potassium from your blood and keep your levels safe.

If your kidney is not functioning properly the level of potassium could remain dangerously high.


Consequences of high potassium?

High levels of potassium can be dangerous.

Some of the signs and consequences of high potassium include: muscle weakness, weak legs and a tingling sensation. If left untreated, the consequences of a high potassium level can result in a heart attack.