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High Blood Pressure & Kidney Disease


High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure. Kidneys are the primary organ that control blood pressure along with the adrenal gland situated on top of the kidney. There are many causes for high blood pressure, and most of them are related to kidney and adrenal gland health. Kidney disease can cause high blood pressure, and high blood pressure can, in turn, cause kidney disease. Many nephrologists are specially trained to deal with difficult-to-control blood pressure and prevent kidney, heart and brain damage.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the walls of your blood vessels. Blood pressure that remains high over time is called hypertension. Excessive fluid in your body increases the amount of pressure on the walls of the blood vessels, resulting in higher blood pressure. Narrow or clogged blood vessels will also lead to higher blood pressure.

How does high blood pressure hurt my kidneys?

High blood pressure exerts extra pressure on all organs- especially the kidneys- and can affect the delicate filters inside the kidney called glomeruli. Over time, these glomeruli can stop functioning chronic kidney disease (CKD).

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms. The only way to know whether your blood pressure is high is by measuring it with a blood pressure cuff. The result is expressed as two numbers. Systolic pressure (top number) represents the pressure when your heart is beating. Diastolic pressure (bottom number) represents the pressure when your heart is resting between beats. There are different goal blood pressures for different individuals based on their age, sex, race and medical conditions. Generally, a systolic blood pressure of 120-130 is considered normal.

How do I know if I have kidney damage?

Kidney damage, like high blood pressure, can be unnoticeable and detected only through medical tests. Blood tests will show whether your kidneys are removing wastes efficiently. Your doctor can order tests to measure how well your kidneys are functioning.

How can I keep high blood pressure from damaging my kidneys?

People with kidney disease should use whatever therapy is necessary, including lifestyle changes and medicines, to keep their blood pressure below 130/80.  To maintain a healthy blood pressure, you should:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Choose fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
  • Limit your daily sodium (salt) intake to 2,000 milligrams or lower (approximately 3/4 of a teaspoon) if you already have high blood pressure. Read nutrition labels on packaged foods to learn how much sodium is in one serving.
  • Get plenty of exercise, which means at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking, most days of the week.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption.

If lifestyle changes alone do not control your blood pressure, a careful selection of medications specific to your needs must be started sooner rather than later by your nephrologist to prevent further end organ damage.

To watch a video explaining the relationship between high blood pressure and kidney disease, click here

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