The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) has launched a new animated video series to educate people with Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), on the heightened risk for complications with hyperkalemia (high potassium). Two patient-friendly videos were developed, each ranging from about one and a half to two and a half minutes, and are available in both English and Spanish to help people of varying levels of health literacy and diverse backgrounds better understand this condition. To understand the lived experiences of those who have this disease, NKF also developed patient videos in English and Spanish. This two-part educational animated video series is supported by AstraZeneca.
“Potassium is an essential nutrient that helps the body to function properly, but too much potassium in the blood can be a serious medical condition for patients with CKD, diabetes, and/or heart failure called hyperkalemia. If hyperkalemia is severe, it can sometimes cause heart rhythm irregularities and even sudden death,” said Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, Chief Medical Officer for the National Kidney Foundation. “A simple blood test can determine the level of potassium in a person’s blood. It’s important to encourage patients to see a doctor for their overall health benefit and to work on a proper treatment plan together.”
Everyone needs the right amount of potassium in their body because it helps the nerves, muscles, kidneys, and heart work properly. High potassium in the blood is a silent disease and oftentimes there are little to no warning signs or symptoms, but you should seek immediate medical care if you become nauseous, experience shortness of breath, have a heavier or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and/or heart palpitations. This disease requires ongoing outpatient management and is often considered chronic. Symptoms can be persistent or develop over the course of a few weeks to months.
Managing high potassium in the blood is possible once you understand the link between the condition and other conditions such as CKD, kidney transplant, heart disease or heart failure, and diabetes, as well as the use of renin-angiotensin aldosterone system (RAAS) inhibitors. Patients with CKD have kidneys that don’t work well and are unable to remove enough potassium from their blood, which can begin to build up harmful levels that, if severe, could be life-threatening. Patients who have experienced heart failure also tend to have CKD, which can lead to high potassium levels. RAAS inhibitors are widely used drug therapies to reduce CKD progression, illness, and death in patients with heart failure. But sometimes doctors can prescribe these drugs to manage potassium levels.
There are approximately 37 million adults in the U.S. estimated to have CKD and 90 percent don’t even know they have it. About 26 million people worldwide have experienced heart failure and are living with high potassium levels in their blood. About 1 in 3 adults are at risk for CKD. Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and family history. People of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. Blacks or African Americans are almost four times more likely than White Americans to have kidney failure. Hispanics experience kidney failure at about double the rate of White people.
Your first line of defense to lower potassium levels in your blood is through your diet. Healthy foods low in potassium includes apples, blueberries, asparagus, carrots, rice, and pasta. Foods higher in potassium includes avocados, bananas, oranges, potatoes/potato products, spinach, tomatoes/tomato sauces, and yogurt. Salt substitutes should also be avoided as they are often high in potassium.
For more information on the connection between kidney disease and high potassium as well as the treatment options available, please visit our patient information center at NKF Cares. To learn more about kidney disease, visit kidney.org.
About Kidney Disease
In the United States, more than 37 million adults are estimated to have kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney disease (CKD)—and approximately 90 percent don’t know they have it. About 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are at risk for kidney disease. Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and family history. People of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. Black or African American people are about four times as likely as White people to have kidney failure. Hispanics experience kidney failure at about double the rate of White people.
About the National Kidney Foundation
The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the largest, most comprehensive, and longstanding patient-centric organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease in the U.S. For more information about NKF, visit www.kidney.org.