Hyperkalemia in the elderly

Am J Kidney Dis. 1990 Oct;16(4):296-9. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(12)80005-9.


Physiologic and pathologic events that occur in patients as they grow older may result in distal renal tubular dysfunction, as well as decreased levels of plasma renin activity and plasma aldosterone. Such alterations result in a tendency toward hyperkalemia. A syndrome termed hyporeninemic hypoaldosteronism, associated with hyperkalemia, has been frequently described in elderly patients. The common occurrence of hyperkalemia in the elderly may be aggravated by the use of drugs that either further suppress renin and/or aldosterone or interfere with distal tubular potassium excretion. Some patients with hyporeninemic hypoaldosteronism respond to diuretic therapy. The recognition of the possible development of severe hyperkalemia in the elderly patient may avoid serious and even fatal complications of this electrolyte disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Aldosterone / blood
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Humans
  • Hyperkalemia / blood
  • Hyperkalemia / epidemiology
  • Hyperkalemia / physiopathology*
  • Hypoaldosteronism / blood
  • Hypoaldosteronism / physiopathology
  • Renin / blood
  • Risk Factors


  • Aldosterone
  • Renin