How High Or Low Potassium Levels Cause Cardiac Arrest

The amount of potassium in your blood determines how excited your nerves and muscle cells can get. This includes your heart muscle or the myocardium too. When potassium levels in your blood rise or fall, you can end up with a potentially fatal and abnormal heart rhythm. This can lead to a sudden cardiac arrest.

What Is A Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

A sudden cardiac arrest comes with no warning or symptoms


As the name suggests, a sudden cardiac arrest is the unexpected cessation of the heart and it often occurs without warning. Its symptoms are more or less immediate and drastic. You may collapse suddenly, have no pulse, find it difficult to breathe, or lose consciousness completely. You may also come across other early signs and symptoms of a sudden cardiac arrest, such as fatigue, fainting, blackouts, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, palpitations, and vomiting.

The immediate cause of sudden cardiac arrest usually is an abnormal heart rhythm, also known as arrhythmia. Any muscle in your body relies on nerve connections for electrical stimulation. Unlike these muscles, your heart depends on a specialized group of cells called the sinus node for electrical stimulation.


This sinus node generates electrical impulses that flow in an orderly way through your heart. These electrical impulses are directly responsible for synchronizing your heart rate and coordinating the pumping of blood from your heart to the rest of your body. When something goes wrong with the sinus node or the flow of electric impulses, your heart can end up beating too fast, too slow, or irregularly. More often than not, this irregular rhythm is momentary and harmless, but it can get potentially fatal and result in sudden cardiac arrest.

The Importance Of Potassium For Heart Health

Potassium is an important mineral for heart health


Potassium is an important mineral that is found in many foods you eat. It is also an electrolyte that helps conduct electrical impulses throughout your body. Potassium assists many essential body functions, including blood pressure, normal water balance, nerve impulses, muscle contractions, and most importantly, your heart rhythm. It keeps your heart healthy and the bones strong. A deficiency of this nutrient could lead to heart palpitations.

The normal range of potassium is 3.5 to 5.0 mmol/L.


Potassium isn’t produced naturally by your body, so it’s important you consume the right diet with potassium-rich foods. Low potassium levels can lead to serious health consequences, so does high potassium levels. Approximately three million people suffer sudden cardiac death every year. Disturbed potassium levels are one of the major triggers of a sudden cardiac arrest.1

Potassium Levels And Cardiac Arrest

Both high and low potassium levels can affect your heart


Potassium is a mineral as well as an electrolyte that has an electrical charge. Along with sodium, it regulates the water balance and the acid-base balance in your body. Sodium and potassium generate an electrical potential and aid the conduction of nerve impulses. This electric potential generates muscle contractions and regulates your heartbeat.

Impact Of High Potassium Intake

Potassium level above 5.5 mmol/L is defined as hyperkalemia.


High potassium in your blood can cause arrhythmia. An arrhythmia refers to a problem with the rhythm of your heartbeat. Too much potassium can alter the electrical signal and lead to changes in your heartbeat. Severe episodes of arrhythmia can change the normal pumping of your heart, which may lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

Impact Of Low Potassium Intake

Potassium level below 3.0 mmol/L is considered as hypokalemia.


Hypokalemia is caused by low levels of potassium in your body and is usually a complication of other diseases or medications. The food that we consume in today’s world has less amounts of potassium. As a result, many of us are prone to have mild hypokalemia. Mild fluctuations can be treated easily with certain lifestyle and dietary changes.

Both hyperkalemia and hypokalemia are related to cardiac arrhythmia. Low potassium levels lead to ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac death. 2

Tips To Prevent Cardiac Arrest

Eat a potassium-rich diet to prevent cardiac arrest

The most important role of potassium is to keep your heart working normally. If you are already suffering from any cardiovascular disease, then make sure your potassium levels are normal throughout. A potassium deficiency can lead to heart failure and left ventricular hypertrophy.

Eat a potassium-rich diet to lower the risk of stroke, especially if you have hypertension. Your body needs about 4,700 mg of potassium a day. Bananas, prunes, tuna, apricots, sweet potato, and avocado are rich in potassium. Other veggies and legumes like white potatoes, carrot, kidney beans, soy beans, and white mushrooms are a good bet too.