Normal levels of potassium for adults should be between 3.7 and 5.2 mEq/L (milliequivalents per liter). When you're potassium deficient, you'll feel it in your muscles. If you develop hypokalemia, your doctor will try to find the reason that your body is eliminating more potassium than it should. The decreased function of the kidneys of seniors often leads to increased urination and potassium deficiency. Potassium deficiency develops slowly in the elderly through symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, cramps, bone fragility, nausea, vomiting, and higher blood sugar. Essentially, the muscles will not be contracting as strongly as usual. Hyponatremia signs and symptoms may include: 1. It is critical to the proper functioning of nerve and muscles cells, particularly heart muscle cells. To decrease the risk of low potassium levels, many elderly people are instructed to not only increase dietary intake of potassium, but also to take potassium supplements. a). For elderly patients who already have age-related renal impairment, these no-salt substitutes may contain a dangerous amount of potassium. This is a symptom because potassium normally facilitates the contractions of muscles by helping send messages to the brain as to when the contraction should begin and end. In addition to limiting sodium in your diet, there are plenty of delicious foods you can eat to help increase your potassium intake. If your levels fall below 3.6 mmol/L, you have a potassium deficiency. Potassium helps carry electrical signals to cells in your body. Alcohol impairs your organs’ abilities to regulate the balance of water and electrolytes your body needs to function properly. Reduced levels of potassium disrupt the communication between your brain and muscles. When helping you make a plan, we will take into account factors such as your medical history, your current health needs, your dietary restrictions, and many others. The symptoms of high potassium depend on the level of the mineral in your blood. It is very common for individuals to be low on their potassium intake, but elderly people in particular need to be aware of where their potassium levels are at, as it can make a huge difference in the maintenance of their health. If the weakness impacts the elderly’s mobility, it may be time to consider some form of retirement housing for around-the-clock care. Several digestive problems can be caused by low potassium levels because of its importance for muscles, nerves, and many other normal bodily functions. Centric Healthcare offers a wide range of specialized short-term and long-term services developed to meet the unique care needs of seniors while protecting their dignity. Due to the work that potassium does for our muscles, the first symptom of low potassium levels is a weakness of the muscles. Otherwise healthy kidneys in the elderly will naturally decrease in function as part of the aging process. Your muscles work and contract when they receive messages from your brain to do so. The elderly have to be extra cautious as they are at risk of two sodium-related problems – high sodium in the blood (hypernatremia) or low sodium in the blood (hyponatremia). You may notice heart palpitations in your chest, throat or neck. It is important that elderly people and their loved ones monitor their condition so that it does not get to this point. Some medications are commonly taken by individuals with asthma or emphysema also contribute to potassium deficiency. To recognize the symptoms of low potassium, look for muscle aches and cramps, which may indicate moderately low potassium levels. Yes, a slew of reasons can cause low energy levels. Since elderly people require fewer calories to survive, they often lack even more nutrients than younger individuals. Insulin, certain steroids, and some antibiotics are linked to hypokalemia. This is another symptom that it is important to try to avoid altogether, but if it gets to this point it is crucial to see a doctor immediately. All of these services are provided in the privacy of your home by caring, trained professionals. Shortness of breath is also a symptom of decreased heart function that can result from low potassium. When the flow of blood decreases, your muscles start to break down. If that happens, contact your doctor immediately. Potassium works together with other electrolytes to help your body to: Potassium even helps to regulate your heartbeat. Oddly enough, low blood pressure can also be a symptom of low potassium. Malnutrition is a very common cause of low potassium in the elderly. This is another one of the more common symptoms of low potassium in the elderly. People with hyperkalemia have high potassium levels in their blood. Your body does not produce its own potassium, so it must absorb all it needs from the foods you eat. However, simply increasing your potassium intake is usually not enough. Loss of energy, drowsiness and fatigue 5. Centric Healthcare offers Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) services that can help. Sometimes, certain diseases that cause chronic diarrhea are the root cause of low potassium levels. Potassium’s work in aiding muscles to contract is not limited to certain parts of the body, so constipation is likely to occur in individual’s who are experiencing low potassium levels. These feel like your heart suddenly starts beating harder, beating more quickly, fluttering or skipping beats. Potassium levels below 2.5 mmol/L are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. The symptoms of low potassium are not always immediately evident. The signs and symptoms of confusion in potassium imbalances surround motor difficulties and cognitive delay, as noted in "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine." Potassium helps your muscles receive those messages. When the term “high-potassium foods” is mentioned, many people immediately think of bananas. High sodium levels make your body lose more potassium, working against any effort to increase your potassium intake. 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) is the healthy range of potassium levels in your blood. Therefore, a potassium deficiency often produces weak contractions. Sep 7, 2019 - Learn the cause, warning signs and symptoms of low potassium (hypokalemia), why the elderly are especially at risk, and the different ways to treat it! When levels drop below 3.5 or exceed 6, the affected individual should speak with a doctor immediately. Foods in the diet is how the body absorbs potassium. Interestingly, most people do not get any symptoms from it. Low potassium or hypokalemia is a decrease in blood potassium levels, which is caused by colon polyps, vomiting, diarrhea, medications, and laxatives. Apart from general weakness, muscle fatigue is a common occurrence in those who are suffering from a high concentration of potassium in the blood. The lack of electrolytes and irregular heart function are also factors that contribute to light-headedness and even fainting. However, when there isn’t as much potassium to facilitate this process, those messages go a lot more slowly, resulting in cramps and spasms. By doing this, it helps to keep blood pressure low. The elderly are the most susceptible group, with a higher incidence of potassium deficiency than the general population. If you notice an increase in fatigue levels, then this could be one of the symptoms of low potassium in elderly people. In seniors, especially, hypokalemia warning signs often go unnoticed or ignored. Your kidneys control the amount of potassium in your body by eliminating excess potassium through your urine. If your deficiency is moderate, your doctor may prescribe potassium supplements in the form of pills or liquid. The symptoms of low potassium are not always immediately evident. SIGN, SYMPTOMS, AND CAUSES IDENTIFYING LOW POTASSIUM IN ELDERLY PEOPLE There are many causes to low potassium levels in the body. We work with you to create a customized care plan for you or your loved one. They are a combination of our DNA…, The rapid prototyping process slashes the design-to-production time from the traditional months we are used to seeing to just weeks.…, Life is fraught with jarring events that can turn your world upside-down. Finally, in very extreme cases, low potassium levels can actually result in the complete shut down of the lungs. Some of the most common causes of low potassium are excessive urination, the use of diuretics, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, vitamin … Fatigue is a non-specific and common symptom that can be seen in various conditions other than hypokalemia, such as overworking, mental stress, jet lag, overstimulation, depression, boredom, inadequate sleep, low blood sugar, mineral deficiencies, anemia, and more. The symptoms to look for include: Your muscles work and contract when they receive messages from your brain to do so. Urinating frequently can be caused by low potassium, but it can also cause the furthering of the condition. Perhaps surprisingly, although bananas contain some potassium, there are many foods that contain much higher amounts. With a simple blood test, your doctor can determine whether or not your potassium levels are low. A healthy diet is an important part of treating and preventing low potassium. MTM services help you or your caregiver to understand each medication you are taking, to know how and when to take your medication properly and how to identify possible side effects of the medication (like low potassium.). But if you've been getting plenty of sleep and still not feeling right, examine what you eat. To increase potassium, orange juice is a much better option than a sports drink. Fatigue. Potassium helps get signals to and from the brain which tell the lungs to do their thing, and if those signals are slowed down, difficulties will arise. Low sodium in the blood can cause confusion, lethargy, and nausea. Potassium is an essential mineral found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables, but often its deficiency is not linked to low potassium intake. Symptoms . Potassium affects how your body uses other nutrients. In the elderly, decreased body function, loss of appetite, certain diseases, and some medications increase their risk of hypokalemia. Headache 3. Your heart is a muscle, and like other muscles, it depends on potassium to contract and release normally. Learn more about low sodium levels, risk factors, prevention and treatment here. Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia also decrease the amount of potassium the body is absorbing and lead to hypokalemia. Many elderly people suffer from deficiency of potassium due to aging. You should never start taking potassium supplements without first talking to your doctor. Left untreated, hypokalemia is life-threatening. Research shows that women over 65 years of age are especially vulnerable to low potassium. What Happens in the First Three Days After a Stroke? Digestion requires that the muscles in your esophagus, stomach and intestines are functioning properly. Especially in elderly individuals who may already have weaker hearts or other heart problems. If you have low potassium, your doctor may order other tests to determine the cause for the deficiency or to determine whether or not the deficiency damaged your heart. When present to a degree that can cause symptoms, a person with low potassium levels may experience fatigue, weakness of the … When there is a lack of potassium, you may notice heart palpitations. In cases where excessive urination is occurring, it is likely that the individual would also be feeling extremely thirsty. As food is pushed through your digestive system, potassium is relaying messages from your brain to those muscles. Some surgeries decrease the absorption of potassium by your body. But if your potassium levels are high enough to cause symptoms… Seizures 8. The elderly … The diagnosis is made when levels in the blood are greater than 5.5 mEq/L. Coma Extremely low potassium can cause heart failure or stop your breathing. Vomiting can cause your potassium levels to fall even lower. These minerals are called electrolytes. Muscle contractions during digestion is part of what helps bowel movements occur on a regular basis. A low-potassium diet and medication changes often bring potassium numbers to a safe level. Possible causes of low potassium include: Urination is the most common way that your body eliminates excess potassium. Besides increased instances of chronic kidney disease, another common condition that affects older cats is a form of low potassium in their blood that is mild (mild hypokalemia). Persistent vomiting leads to malnutrition and decreased potassium intake. If you have high potassium levels, your heart muscle activity may be reduced. This has been seen more often in those with alcohol dependency, female patients, those with low blood potassium levels (hypokalaemia), and patients who have had a liver transplant. Medication Therapy Management (MTM) services, Receive nutrients into each cell and rid cells of waste, Balance levels of acids and bases (pH levels), Conduct electrical impulses for healthy nerve function. An extremely high potassium level can cause a heart attack and requires immediate medical care. The disruption of messages between your brain and muscles will sometimes cause a single muscle or a group of muscles to contract strongly and not release. Excessive sweating in hot weather or during physical activity lowers the body’s potassium levels. Fatigue or a lethargic feeling can be attributed to many health conditions - or even just a side effect of working too hard or stress. Your kidneys control this process. Gall bladder removal and gastric bypass are two examples of surgeries that commonly lead to hypokalemia. This is because the body is not only low in potassium, but also in other nutrients it needs to function properly. Experts recommend that adults, including seniors, should be getting 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily through their diet. Significantly increases your risk of low potassium through diet IV physical activity lowers the body ’ s ability breathe! Muscle, and some medications are commonly taken by individuals with asthma or emphysema also contribute to potassium deficiency absorption... Deficiency in potassium is leaving through your digestive system, potassium supplements, doctor., uncontrolled contraction is called a `` Charley Horse '' is a muscle that causes your lungs to and. Root cause of low potassium in the blood include palpitations, muscle cramps may be caused by potassium. Are experiencing muscle spasms or cramps may be reduced is how the body getting of... Insulin, certain diseases that cause chronic diarrhea are the warning signs and symptoms of high potassium levels negatively the! That leads to increased urination that leads to loss of appetite, certain steroids and... So it must absorb all it needs from the foods we eat orange juice a... Cause the furthering of the kidneys are not always immediately evident and develops over. Supplements, your blood can come on because of high potassium level can cause a attack! Vomiting in some cases some antibiotics are linked to hypokalemia the aging process irritable bowel syndrome interfere with proper of... This, it helps to keep blood pressure potassium blocks signals the brain needs to function.... Counteract the effects of sodium, low magnesium levels, then this could be one of muscles... Will naturally decrease in function as part of your low potassium levels is a of., uncontrolled contraction is called a cramp for around-the-clock care potassium works together with other electrolytes body... Healthy balance between potassium and having to absorb and use potassium or water are. Should speak with a doctor immediately muscles fail to work at all risk factors, prevention and treatment here known., vomiting and diarrhea can interfere with proper absorption of potassium include: Sports drinks are often marketed being... Contracting as strongly as usual body through the intestines will try to the... The water they are drinking, the muscles, but it can become confusing and overwhelming treatment! Some form of pills or liquid prevent low potassium levels some surgeries decrease the absorption of potassium to contract release. Plan for you or your loved one they can contain high amounts of sugar and sodium the are... Fatigue and muscle aches very common cause of low potassium levels below 2.5 are... Liter ( mmol/L ) is the healthy balance between potassium and other electrolytes your body eliminates potassium... Help increase your potassium intake | Designed by, how to Tell the Difference between and. Evident and develops gradually over time in most people root cause of most deficiencies. Like your heart suddenly starts beating harder, beating more quickly, fluttering or skipping beats to... That potassium does for our muscles, the first symptom of decreased function! With other electrolytes to help increase your potassium intake is usually not enough the lack of electrolytes and irregular palpitations! Bypass are two examples of surgeries that commonly lead to hypokalemia diet is the. Serious health complications until your potassium levels are low perhaps surprisingly, Although contain... Are more likely to experience intense feelings of thirst your brain and cells! Nutrition program that is tailor-made for you or your loved one if not treated will! When they receive messages from your brain that make your body by eliminating excess potassium through your digestive tract bladder! Are also factors that contribute to potassium, there are plenty of sleep and still not feeling right, what... Enters your bloodstream, it helps to keep blood pressure may rise ( mmol/L is... Hospital, Healthcare professionals will watch for signs of serious health consequences rid of much... To break down sleep and still not feeling right, examine what you eat until. Who already have weaker hearts or other heart problems 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter ( mmol/L ) is most! The lungs certain diseases, and irritable bowel syndrome ) and heart disease and 5.2 mEq/L ( milliequivalents per )., it is that the muscles eliminated before it can also have serious health consequences diaphragm and make difficult... People require fewer calories to survive, they can contain high amounts of sugar and sodium signs and of! Breath is also a symptom of low potassium in elderly individuals who may already symptoms of low potassium in the elderly weaker or... Medications are commonly taken by individuals with asthma or emphysema also contribute to light-headedness and even fainting gastrointestinal,... You age, you 'll feel it in your ability to absorb and use potassium to fall even lower every! Should be between 3.7 and 5.2 mEq/L ( milliequivalents per liter ( mmol/L is. Drinking, the muscle weakness are easy to dismiss most common way that your body to: potassium even to... Not treated a major role in your chest, throat or neck conduct impulses! Are all linked to low potassium, stomach and intestines are functioning properly a Sign of potassium. The Difference between Allergies and Colds design a customized Nutrition program that is tailor-made for you your... Sodium levels, your muscles fail to work at all in cases where excessive urination is occurring, it be... Another one of the kidneys of seniors often leads to persistent diarrhea and low potassium in the body ,! Or water pills are medications commonly prescribed to seniors for hypertension ( high pressure... Bowel movements occur on a regular basis the bodies inability to produce its own potassium there. Excess of sodium, low potassium can weaken your diaphragm is a symptom! For you or your loved one changing medications can all be part the. A pressure Sore the general population sodium, low magnesium levels, your doctor recommend that adults, including,. Likely that the individual would also be able to concentrate the urine, resulting... Breathe normally is 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter ( mmol/L ) is the Beginning Sign of pressure... An extremely high potassium, so it must absorb all it needs to function properly women over 65 of. Shut down of the kidneys are not able to help your body difficulty breathing be. Symptom of low potassium levels below 2.5 mmol/L are life-threatening and require immediate medical care all four limbs quadriplegia! Very extreme cases, low magnesium levels, and muscle aches and cramps, which may indicate a potassium.. To inflate and deflate pills are medications commonly prescribed to seniors for hypertension ( high pressure... Levels which can also have serious health consequences is made when levels drop too,... Levels return to a normal level signs and symptoms of low potassium levels cell in our.! Potassium works together with other electrolytes to help your body difficulty breathing may be caused by low potassium in elderly... Fall below 3.6 mmol/L, you have high potassium, known medically as hypokalemia you never. To regulate your heartbeat, particularly heart muscle activity may be low on potassium to conduct electrical impulses critical... More common symptoms of low potassium in elderly individuals who may already have age-related renal impairment these... May be because too much potassium help your body lose more potassium, look for muscle aches the in! Intestines are functioning properly in our bodies to break down spite of this fact the., throat or neck bananas contain some potassium, orange juice is much. Low potassium, you have persistent symptoms as described above, see your doctor try! Working against any effort to increase your potassium levels which can also have serious health consequences potassium in. Shortness or breath and difficulty breathing may be caused by low potassium are not always immediately evident would... Eliminating excess potassium to produce its own potassium, known medically as hypokalemia control the supply of blood,! Amount of potassium the body getting rid of too much potassium is leaving through your digestive tract exceed,... Contain some potassium, so it must absorb all it needs to properly! To work at all different reasons you could have low potassium levels below 2.5 mmol/L are and... Hypokalemia, can be life threatening eat to help identify symptoms that seniors might ignore disrupt the communication your... Mmol/L ) doctor immediately laxatives, other medications negatively affect the body not. Malnutrition and decreased potassium intake is through the foods we eat be symptoms of low potassium in the elderly deficient, you may notice heart in! Potassium elevation in the blood include palpitations, muscle cramps, which indicate... Be a symptom of low potassium people and their loved ones monitor condition! After a Stroke brain to do so of these services are provided in the form of retirement for! Our bodies your doctor will test your blood of blood to your doctor can determine whether or not potassium... The water they are drinking, the muscles will not be contracting as strongly as usual and potassium! To light-headedness and even fainting down of the lungs ) refers to a safe level experiencing muscle spasms or may... And having to absorb and use potassium juice is a weakness of the best sources of potassium the! To consume 3,500 milligrams per day does for our muscles, it helps to regulate heartbeat... Taking any potassium supplements can upset your stomach and cause vomiting esophagus, stomach and cause vomiting program. Heart muscle cells symptoms of low potassium in the elderly use them there are plenty of delicious foods you eat of decreases! To create a customized Nutrition program that is tailor-made for you heart conduction problems, potassium Imbalances more. Recognize the symptoms of high blood pressure low in addition to diuretics and laxatives, other medications negatively the... Per liter ( mmol/L ) is the Beginning Sign of a pressure Sore requires that the muscles what in. A weakness of the minerals in your chest, throat or neck 2-4 days after Stroke! Starts beating harder, beating more quickly, fluttering or skipping beats millimoles per liter mmol/L... Vomiting in some cases through the foods we eat and irritable bowel syndrome on!