Potassium levels and the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among patients with cardiovascular diseases: a meta-analysis of cohort studies

Nutr J. 2024 Jan 10;23(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s12937-023-00888-z.


Background: Abnormal blood potassium levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases and mortality in the general population; however, evidence regarding the association between dyskalemia and mortality among patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains inconclusive. This study aimed to evaluate the association of potassium levels with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among patients with CVD.

Methods: PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library databases were searched up to August 2023 to identify relevant cohort studies among patients with CVD, such as myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure. Abnormal potassium levels were considered as hypokalemia or hyperkalemia. The primary outcomes were all-cause mortality based on follow-up length (including in-hospital, short-term and long-term mortality) and cardiovascular mortality. The methodological quality of included studies was assessed by using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. The pooled relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using random-effects models. Restricted cubic splines were applied to explore the dose-response relationship.

Results: Thirty-one cohort studies involving 227,645 participants with an average age of 68.3 years were included in the meta-analysis, all of which achieved moderate to high quality. Hyperkalemia was significantly associated with an approximately 3.0-fold increased risk of all-cause in-hospital mortality (RR:2.78,95CI%:1.92,4.03), 1.8-fold of all-cause short-term mortality (RR:1.80, 95CI%:1.44,2.27), 1.3-fold of all-cause long-term mortality (RR:1.33, 95CI%:1.19,1.48) and 1.2-fold of cardiovascular mortality (RR:1.19, 95CI%:1.04,1.36). Similar positive associations were also observed between hypokalemia and risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality. The RRs of all-cause in-hospital, short-term, long-term mortality and cardiovascular mortality with hyperkalemia were attenuated to 2.21 (95CI%:1.60,3.06), 1.46(95CI%:1.25,1.71), 1.23 (95CI%:1.09,1.39) and 1.13 (95CI%:1.00,1.27) when treating hypokalemia together with normokalemia as the reference group. A U-shaped association was observed between potassium levels and mortality, with the lowest risk at around 4.2 mmol/L.

Conclusions: Both hypokalemia and hyperkalemia were positively associated with the risk of mortality in patients with CVD. Our results support the importance of potassium homeostasis for improving the CVD management.

Registration: PROSPERO, CRD42022324337.

Keywords: Cardiovascular Disease; Meta-analysis; Mortality; Potassium.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Hyperkalemia*
  • Hypokalemia*
  • Potassium


  • Potassium