low potassium in elderly

What Causes Low Potassium Levels in Elderly?

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Potassium is a vital mineral and electrolyte for the functioning of cells, nerves, tissues, and muscles of our body. It maintains our pulse and heart rate. For healthy cell activity, potassium serves a primary role. Foods like almonds, bananas, tuna, and many more contain potassium. For healthy body functioning, seniors must consume a specific amount of potassium in their diet. However, eating too much or too little might be harmful. The cells in our body frequently move materials in and out of them; for example, waste items are removed and vital nutrients are brought in. For this process, potassium is essential. Therefore, low potassium affects the function of many muscle groups and cells.

Reasons That Cause Low Potassium in Elderly?

Since potassium has a great impact on our overall health, it is important to know the causes of low potassium in the elderly and how you can treat it.

1.   Diuretics:

Diuretics are high blood pressure drugs that are frequently given to seniors. Diuretics increase urine production hence an increased amount of water and salts are excreted. Frequent urination also causes excessive electrolyte loss resulting in low potassium levels in elderly.

2.   Malnutrition:

Deficiency, excess, or imbalance in a person’s intake of vital nutrients is referred to as malnutrition. Malnutrition has two major categories of diseases. One is “undernutrition” which involves micronutrient deficiency. The other category includes noncommunicable illnesses linked to obesity and food (such as Heart disease Care, Diabetes Care, Stroke Care, and Cancer Care). Low potassium levels in elderly are frequently caused by malnutrition. Their body might become deficient in vitamins and minerals if they eat poorly or don’t consume anything at all.

3.   Diarrhea, Vomiting, & Dehydration:

Dehydration, low salt levels, and low potassium levels in elderly (hypokalemia) can result from diarrhea and vomiting. Long-term vomiting can cause potassium levels to drop because it makes the body lose water and salts. Additionally, out of many low potassium causes, dehydration is the primary cause by which cells lose potassium.

4.   Overuse of Laxatives:

Low potassium levels in elderly cause constipation. While sometimes using a laxative to relieve constipation might be beneficial, it is important to avoid overusing them. Overusing laxatives frequently leads to diarrhea, which causes significant water and electrolyte loss like potassium. It’s crucial to talk to a doctor about persistent constipation if your aging loved one is suffering from it.

5.   Other Causes of Low Potassium in Elderly:

  • Kidney diseases
  • Arthritis and injury care
  • Excessive use of alcohol (excessive)
  • Ketoacidosis in diabetics
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Deficiency of folic acid
  • Primary aldosteronism
  • Some usage of antibiotics
All of the above-mentioned reasons also cause low potassium levels in elderly.

What Are the Symptoms of Low Potassium in Elderly?

Symptoms of low potassium in elderly include: Constipation (this is why it’s crucial not to take laxatives excessively!) It’s important to consult a doctor right away if you discover that these symptoms are persistent. In addition to these symptoms of low potassium in elderly, seniors may also have disorientation, neurological problems, and unpredictable behavior. In an emergency, keep an eye on the heartbeat of your loved one.

How to Manage Low Potassium in Elderly?

Make sure that your elderly loved one is eating a diet rich in potassium and other vital nutrients. The best source of potassium for people of all ages is food. Eating meals high in potassium is the first step in avoiding low potassium, as prevention is always preferable. Foods that are high in potassium include:
  • Grapes
  • Blackberries
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado
  • Granola
  • Sweet potato
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Fish (cod, halibut, and tuna)
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lima Beans
  • Molasses
  • Nuts (almonds)
  • Raisins
  • Peanut Butter
  • Whole wheat bread and Pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Cereal/Oats
If an examination reveals very low blood potassium levels, Consult your physician about potassium supplements. Both potassium chloride and potassium bicarbonate are present in them. Additionally, the doctor could take care of any underlying conditions that are causing low potassium levels in elderly.

Key Takeaway:

Potassium is a vital electrolyte for the functioning of our body cells, muscles, and tissues. Low potassium levels in elderly are common since they use medication and do not usually consume a nutrient-enriched diet. Low potassium in elderly is caused by various reasons. However, including foods high in potassium in their diet can help you get rid of symptoms of low potassium in elderly. If the symptoms persist longer, make sure to consult your doctor and seek professional help.

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