About 37 million American adults live with kidney disease, a chronic condition that can have life-threatening complications. High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most common causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney failure, which means learning how to manage your blood pressure is critical if you’ve been diagnosed with kidney disease — and even if you haven’t.
With four locations in Cypress and Houston, Texas, Houston Kidney Specialists Center helps patients manage their blood pressure with both medical intervention and lifestyle changes. Here’s why managing your blood pressure is essential for better kidney function, and what you can do to help manage yours.
How your kidneys work
Your kidneys are your body’s filters. They work diligently to remove waste and toxins from your blood, and they also help excrete excess fluids through your urine. In fact, healthy kidneys work so well that they can filter almost all of your blood about twice every hour.
Your kidneys contain structures called glomeruli and tubules, and they work together to filter blood and handle fluids. Each glomerulus is composed of a cluster of tiny blood vessels, and these vessels allow water and small molecules to pass into the adjacent tubules. Water and essential molecules pass through the walls of the tubules into your bloodstream, while waste and extra water are excreted in your urine.
By getting rid of excess fluids, your kidneys play an important role in regulating your blood pressure, and they also play key roles in red blood cell production and bone health. Plus, they help maintain healthy levels of salts and chemicals that are important for your overall health.
Hypertension and kidney function
High blood pressure is a condition in which the pressure inside your blood vessels increases beyond normal levels. Atherosclerosis — also referred to as a hardening of the arteries — is a common cause of hypertension. Atherosclerosis develops when fats and other substances build up inside your arteries, making them stiffer and narrower.
When your blood pressure is high, this increases the pressure your blood exerts on your organs, including your kidneys. Over time, high blood pressure can cause changes in your kidneys and the renal arteries, the vessels that carry blood to your kidneys.
Specifically, hypertension can cause these arteries to narrow and stiffen, which can increase kidney blood pressure and make it harder for blood to reach your kidneys. This is a condition called renal hypertension. Renal means relating to the kidneys.
If your kidneys don’t get enough blood, the filtering process can stop working the way it’s supposed to, and this can lead to chronic kidney disease. At the same time, a reduced blood flow can initiate a stress reaction in your kidneys, in which the kidneys produce hormones that can cause your blood pressure to rise even more.
Without ongoing management, renal hypertension can eventually lead to kidney failure. Of course, hypertension can lead to other problems, too, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Managing hypertension to protect your kidneys
Renal hypertension typically causes no symptoms in its early stages, and many people have this condition without even knowing it. If you have high blood pressure that’s not controlled, or if you have kidney-related symptoms — such as changes in your urine or swelling in your lower legs (edema) — those could be indications that you have renal hypertension or that your overall blood pressure is stressing your kidneys.
Hypertension is typically treated with both medication and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes could include:
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a diet low in sodium
- Incorporating potassium-rich foods
- Managing stress
- Being more physically active
Medications could include high blood pressure medicines and drugs to treat underlying conditions. The team at Houston Kidney Specialists Center will work closely with you to develop an individualized treatment plan based on your unique symptoms, medical history, and underlying health.
Having regular checkups and blood pressure screenings is essential for diagnosing hypertension before it causes serious health problems. To schedule your evaluation, book an appointment online or over the phone with Houston Kidney Specialists Center today.