What regulatory factors stabilize serum potassium levels?

Updated: Jun 20, 2018
  • Author: Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Answer

The 2 sets of regulatory factors—those that regulate total-body homeostasis and those that regulate distribution of potassium between intracellular and extracellular spaces—meld to create smooth control of potassium levels throughout the day. Thus, serum concentrations can remain stable even in the face of acute intake or loss of potassium.

For example, although a high-potassium meal might contain enough potassium to raise the serum potassium acutely to lethal levels if the potassium remained in the extracellular space, Na+ -K+ -ATPase rapidly takes up the potassium into cells, thus preventing the development of hyperkalemia. Adrenergic stimulation and insulin are important in maintaining the activity of Na+ -K+ -ATPase. The excess potassium then can be excreted by the kidneys, allowing serum potassium levels to return to normal.


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