Purpose: Hypokalemia is one of the most common electrolyte disturbances in clinical practice. There are only a few epidemiological studies analyzing the occurrence of hypokalemia in older persons. The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of hypokalemia in the Polish older population.
Methods: Serum potassium concentration was estimated in 4654 participants (2270 females and 2384 males, mean age 76.5 [11.0] years), who participated in the PolSenior study. Hypokalemia was defined as serum potassium concentration below 3.5 mmol/L. Hypokalemia was found in 39 participants (0.84%) and was significantly more frequent among females (28 females = 1.23% and 11 males = 0.46%; p = 0.003). The prevalence of hypokalemia was not related to age. Among 3303 participants suffering from arterial hypertension, 1093 were treated with potassium-losing diuretics.
Results: Hypokalemia was significantly more frequent among hypertensive than normotensive older participants (1.06 vs. 0.30% respectively; p = 0.007) and among hypertensive participants treated with potassium losing diuretics than ones untreated with these drugs (1.96 vs. 0.46% respectively; p < 0.001). In hypertensive participants, the prevalence of hypokalemia did not depend significantly on oral supplementation of potassium (1.92 and 0.98% respectively, NS). None of 81 participants using laxative agents presented hypokalemia.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that: older age seems not to appear to be a significant risk factor of hypokalemia. Hypokalemia is more often found in the older hypertensive patients treated with potassium losing diuretics, and prevention of diuretic-induced hypokalemia with oral supplementation of potassium seems to be insufficient.
Keywords: Diuretic therapy; Hypertension; Hypokalemia; Older persons; Prevalence.
© 2021. The Author(s).