How to interpret Potassium levels in your labs?

What is Potassium?


Potassium is an important electrolyte that our body needs for normal functioning of muscles, heart and nerves. It also helps to remove waste from our cells and may benefit in controlling our blood pressure by countering effects of sodium.


There are several food items rich in potassium including squash, potato, lentils, beans, spinach, collards, yogurt, raisin etc.



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Normal Potassium range: (May vary among various labs)

3.5 – 5.3 mmol/L


What are the common causes of low Potassium?


  • Vomiting & Diarrhea

  • Using too much of laxative

  • Excessive sweating

  • Low magnesium

  • Medications like diuretics (fluid pills), psychiatric medications

  • Dialysis

  • Hypothermia (too low body temperature)

  • Some metabolic, hormonal or genetic conditions


What are the common causes of high Potassium?


  • Lab error (potassium released from cells after blood draw causing false high reading)

  • Exercise

  • Lack of insulin

  • Kidney failure

  • Medications such as beta blockers, ace inhibitors etc.

  • Some metabolic and hormonal conditions


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