They say, “Too much of anything isn’t good.” Your family physician couldn’t agree more with this statement.
Nearly 4 out of 10 people with congestive heart failure develop a condition known as hyperkalaemia. Hyper means more and kalaemia stands for potassium (the symbol for which is ‘K’), which implies ‘more potassium’. Too much potassium isn’t good for you.
Potassium is one of the chemicals that keeps your heart functioning; it is crucial for the maintenance of water balance in your body. Too much potassium can disturb the functioning of your body and affect your kidney function and muscles, thereby making you feel weak.
What’s the reason for such a complicated condition?
There is a dynamic association between the heart and kidneys. The heart and the kidneys basically oppose each other to quite an extent. Kidneys maintain the electrolyte balance in the body by increasing or decreasing the amount of water and salts excreted through the urine. The heart is affected by the volume of water in the blood that it needs to pump. The greater the volume of fluid it needs to pump, the greater the load on the heart. To manage a failing heart, doctors prescribe ‘water pills’. These pills increase the amount of water excreted in the form of urine; however, this can lead to excess potassium in the blood. Increased potassium rapidly affects the heart and leads to irregular heartbeats, paralysis, nausea and muscle fatigue.[1,2]
Most fruits and vegetables contain a healthy amount of potassium. Here are the right fruits to munch on to help strike the perfect balance of potassium in your body!
Here’s a list of fruits you could incorporate in your diet:
- Watermelon: A cup of watermelon can add freshness to your evening snacks
- Pineapple: A tasty, tangy fruit that you could cherish either in the fruit form or as juice
- Peach: What better than a sweet, juicy peach with a slice of toasted bread
- Pear: The fruity fullness of 1 small pear has just the right amount of nutrients to keep your heart and kidneys healthy
- Berries: Blueberries, blackberries and even cherries make for an excellent mid-morning snack
- Apple: The good old apple can indeed keep the doctor away. If apple juice is something you are into, you could have that in place of other drinks.
- Grapes: A bunch of grapes can be the perfect fruity dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth! Grapes contain low potassium and can be safely eaten if you have been diagnosed with kidney problems.
- Plums: The goodness of 1 small plum is unmatched by any other!
Remember, moderation is the key! Eat ½ cup of any of these fruits, unless specified otherwise, to maintain your potassium levels. Even if you want to include variety in your diet, do it in limited amounts. Eating excess of any of these fruits could make your potassium levels shoot up if you are already suffering from high potassium.
Fruits that you should avoid as far as possible are:
- Dried fruits like apricots, prunes, figs and raisins
Another way you could manage your potassium levels is by looking out for salt substitutes in the foods you eat. Salt substitutes, used in canned foods as a preservative, can also increase your potassium levels. Generally, labels on packaged foods give such information. Cooked spinach, potatoes and tomatoes are also rich sources of potassium; try to avoid them as well. If you are into sports and tend to sip on sports drinks during the day, watch out for the potassium content in them. If you are fond of certain fruits and vegetables that have high levels of potassium, an effortless way that may help minimise the potassium level is to cut, peel and soak them in water to help leach out the potassium.
As someone rightly said, “Variety is the spice of life!” Let the doctors and scientists figure out the correct balance of medications to be prescribed, while you throw in a mix of fruits to maintain healthy potassium levels in the most natural way.
- Thomsen RW, Nicolaisen SK, Hasvold P, Garcia‐Sanchez R, Pedersen L, Adelborg K, Egfjord M, Egstrup K, Sørensen HT. Elevated potassium levels in patients with congestive heart failure: Occurrence, risk factors, and clinical outcomes. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 May 22;7(11):pii:e008912. doi:10.1161/JAHA.118.008912.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. High potassium (hyperkalemia) [Internet]. 2018 Jan 11 [cited 2019 Jul 20]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hyperkalemia/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050776.
- Potassium and your CKD diet [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2019 Jul 20]. Available from: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium.
- Heart failure diet: Potassium [Internet]. [updated 2019 May 01; cited 2019 Jul 20]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17073-heart-failure-diet-potassium.