(Family Features) Foods high in potassium, an essential mineral and electrolyte, offer health and nutrition benefits. Potassium helps muscles, including the heart, expand and contract, but for people whose kidneys can’t filter out excess potassium, its buildup can be deadly.
Many foods, like bananas, have potassium, but some have more than others. For the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, the American Kidney Fund’s “Beyond Bananas” educational campaign stresses the importance of controlling and managing potassium levels for better health outcomes. High potassium, known as hyperkalemia, is one of the common and serious side effects of kidney disease.
If you have kidney disease, you are at risk for hyperkalemia because your kidneys can't remove the extra potassium in your blood. This can be dangerous as high potassium can cause heart attacks or even death. However, some people do not feel symptoms of high potassium until it’s too late and their heart health worsens. If you do feel symptoms, some of the most common are tiredness or weakness, nausea, muscle pains or cramps, trouble breathing, unusual heartbeat and chest pains.
For those with kidney disease, high potassium is not just a measurement at a point in time but rather a chronic condition. Some of the most common causes of high potassium in those who have kidney disease are eating high-potassium foods, using a salt substitute that contains potassium, constipation, missing dialysis treatments and taking some medicines or herbal supplements. A food with 250 milligrams of potassium or more per serving is considered a high-potassium food. Some examples include bananas, grapefruits, dried fruits, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, beans, most meats and fish, dairy products, nuts and chocolate.