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Potassium level in serum 5.5 , .....fasting 12 hours
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Potassium level in serum 5.5 , .....fasting 12 hours

I am a 66 yr old male, 5'5", weighing 150lbs.

What is the significance of this high reading?

Does it pose any danger?

What are the causes for it to be high?

Is the consumption of alcohol a factor?

Will taking a diuretic reduce the amount of potassium in the blood?

What steps SHOULD I take to reduce the amount of potassium to a lower level?

My current medications are: Atenolol 50mg;  Rabeprazole NA 20mg;  Lovastatin 40mg; & Enteric Aspirin 325mg....all taken once daily.

Thank you for your assistance.
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Hello - thanks for asking your question.

To answer your questions:
1) An elevated potassium (hyperkalemia) has effects on the conduction of the heart.  If the potassium is elevated too high, it can cause arrythmias.  It can also cause nausea.

2) Yes, an EKG should be performed immediately to make sure your heart's rhythm is stable.

3) Typically an elevated potassium is caused by acute kidney failure.  As for alcohol specifically - it can precipitate a condition known as rhabdomyolysis which can elevated potassium.

4) Some diuretics will lower potassium (i.e. loop diuretics), others will raise potassium (i.e. spironolactone).  

5) An EKG should be performed to make sure your heart is ok. A full chemistry panel should also be performed.  You should avoid high potassium foods (oranges, bananas).  A potassium binder (Kayexelate) may be prescribed to lower the potassium.  Please see your personal physician for more information.

Followup with your personal physician is essential.

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.

Kevin, M.D.
if your kidney tests were perfectly normal, it may not mean a darn thing: one way potassium readings are elevated when the kidneys are ok is from trauma to the blood when the blood is drawn: blood cells have lots of potassium in them, and if a few break during the blood draw, it can give a false reading. 5.5 is not high enough to be dangerous for most people. Step one would be to re-draw the blood.
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