High potassium (hyperkalemia)

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Hyperkalemia is the medical term that describes a potassium level in your blood that’s higher than normal. Potassium is a chemical that is critical to the function of nerve and muscle cells, including those in your heart.

Your blood potassium level is normally 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Having a blood potassium level higher than 6.0 mmol/L can be dangerous and usually requires immediate treatment.

What is high potassium, or hyperkalemia?

Everyone needs potassium to survive. Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte. It helps your muscles work, including the muscles that control your heartbeat and breathing. Potassium comes from the food you eat.

Your body uses the potassium it needs. The extra potassium that your body does not need is removed from your blood by your kidneys. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys cannot remove extra potassium in the right way, and too much potassium can stay in your blood.

When you have too much potassium in your blood, it is called high potassium, or hyperkalemia. Having too much potassium in your blood can be dangerous. High potassium can even cause a heart attack or death! Unfortunately, many people do not feel symptoms of high potassium until it’s too late and their heart health worsens.

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