BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – Researchers at UAB are saying they might have found a good reason for people to keep up their potassium levels.
The research says that low potassium levels can produce an increased risk of death or hospitalization in patients with heart failure and chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Findings were first reported in an American Heart Association Journal.
"Hypokalemia, or low potassium, is common in heart-failure patients and is associated with poor outcomes, as is chronic kidney disease," said C. Barrett Bowling, M.D. of the UAB Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care. "But little is known about the prevalence and effect of hypokalemia in heart-failure patients who also have CKD."
The UAB researchers studied data from 1,044 patients with heart failure and CKD in the Digitalis Investigation Group study, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Death occurred in 48 percent of the patients with hypokalemia during the 57-month follow-up period, compared with only 36 percent of patients with normal potassium. The vast majority of subjects, 87 percent, had mild hypokalemia. Hospitalization also was slightly higher for subjects with low potassium, 59 percent compared with 53 percent for those with normal potassium levels.
"It has long been considered that high potassium levels were more common in heart-failure patients with CKD," said Ali Ahmed, M.D., senior author of the study and associate professor of medicine in the Divisions of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care and Cardiovascular Disease. "Our findings indicate that low potassium may be even more common in these patients, and clinicians need to be aware of the risks associated with even mildly low potassium levels and monitor and treat their patients accordingly."