Diuretics help to lower patients’ blood pressure, relieve shortness of breath, reduce swelling and bloating, increase urination, reduce the time patients spend in hospital, and help patient with heart failure to live longer, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. However, there are a few possible interactions to be aware of too. One of these is that some diuretics can cause patients to lose potassium.2 In fact, Drs Adam Blanning and John Westfall recommended that, “patients taking diuretics should have a potassium level checked in the first 2-8 weeks after initiating therapy”.
It’s important to establish whether your patient has been prescribed a diuretic which requires them to also be taking a potassium supplement.
WHAT’S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT POTASSIUM
“The body needs potassium for almost everything it does, including proper kidney and heart function, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission,”4 explained the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
SOURCES OF POTASSIUM
An essential nutrient, potassium is naturally present in many foods and available as a dietary supplement.
“Potassium is found in many foods including fruits, such as dried apricots, prunes, raisins, orange juice, and bananas; vegetables, such as acorn squash, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli; lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, and nuts; milk and yogurt; meats, poultry, and fish,” the NIH specified.
“In supplements, potassium comes in many different forms – a common form is potassium chloride, but other forms used in supplements are potassium citrate, potassium phosphate, potassium aspartate, potassium bicarbonate, and potassium gluconate. Research has not shown that any form of potassium is better than the others.”4
According to Drs Blanning and Westfall dietary sodium restriction may also help to conserve potassium, because this will decrease urinary flow rate and potassium loss. “The frequency with which to check potassium levels should be guided by the patients’ underlying clinical conditions and dietary potassium and sodium intake.”