Normal Potassium LevelsMarch 11, 2015
Quite likely, if you are getting regular and thorough check-ups from your doctor, he or she has been tracking the levels of potassium in your blood. Normal levels of potassium are essential to the functioning of the body, including the nerves, muscles and your heart.
Potassium levels are routinely checked when doctors are investigating any type of serious illness. Because of potassium’s importance to the functioning of the heart, potassium level tests (and tests for all electrolytes) are usually ordered during complete routine evaluations, especially if the patient is taking diuretics, blood pressure or heart medication. High blood pressure and kidney disease are also associated with abnormal potassium levels, so these issues will also usually involve the doctor testing.
Normal potassium levels range from around 3.5 milliEquivalents per liter (mEq/L) to about 5.2 mEq/L, with various sources varying by 0.2 mEq/L or so. Levels above 5.2 and up to about 6 mEq/L is defined as mild hyperkalemia, while great than 6 or so is severe hyperkalemia.
Hyperkalemia is confusing because, while the actual amount of potassium in your body may be normal, the amount in your blood is unusual. Normally, 98% of the potassium is your body resides in the cells, with 2% in the blood. This means the potassium is moving from your cells to the blood for some reason. This can indicate another more serious problem, such as cell destruction, trauma, diabetes, kidney trouble and a host of other possible causes. It can also be caused by certain prescription drugs, such as diuretics.
Normally, unless levels are well over 7.0 mEq/L, there are no symptoms associated with elevated potassium, and it is frequently a passing occurrence.
On the other hand, too little potassium (less than around 2.5 5mEq/L) is considered to be life threatening. The loss of potassium can be caused by diuretics, as well as by vomiting, diarrhea, excessive alcohol consumption and kidney disease. The cause is not commonly from insufficient potassium in the diet. As always, check with your doctor to confirm your potassium levels, who may recommend supplements in addition to potassium rich diet.