Hypertension and Kidney Disease
High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition where blood exerts excess pressure on the walls of blood vessels. Untreated hypertension can cause various complications such as chronic kidney disease. Hypertension is the second commonest cause, after diabetes, for kidney disorders. About 1 in 4 individuals with kidney failure have hypertension.
Each kidney has about a million filtering units known as nephrons. Hypertension is seen to damage nephrons. Further, high blood pressure also damages the blood vessels of the kidneys. As the kidneys contain lots of blood vessels, hypertension is dangerous for your kidneys.
Given these points, managing hypertension through lifestyle changes and medications is essential to prevent or manage kidney disease. Therefore, if you have hypertension, you can talk to your physician about the risk of kidney diseases and ways to prevent them.
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Your kidney filters about a half cup of blood each minute, filtering out extra water and wastes to make urine. If you have high blood pressure, it may narrow and weaken blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the kidneys. This narrowed blood vessels cannot supply blood efficiently
Besides, damaged blood vessels of the kidneys may not work properly. In such cases, your kidneys fail to remove extra fluid and wastes from your body. At the same time, extra fluid in the blood can further increase blood pressure, creating a vicious cycle. All of this may ultimately cause kidney failure.
Kidney Disease Risk Factors
While anyone with high blood pressure can have kidney disease, certain risk factors that increase your risk are:
- Unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle
- Being overweight
- A family history of kidney disease
- A habit of smoking and excess alcohol
- Age above 65 years of age
- High cholesterol levels
- Liver disorders
Effects Of Damaged Kidneys
Damage kidneys are more likely to fail. Kidney failure or chronic kidney disease is an irreversible and long-term disorder.
If left unattended, chronic kidney disease can have the following effects on your body:
- Congestive heart failure
- Fluid overload
- Weight loss
- Brittle bones
- Electrolyte imbalance
Chronic kidney disease, if left unattended, may result in end-stage renal disease, where the kidneys begin to shut down.
Symptoms Of Kidneys Disorder
Most kidney disorders do not have any symptoms unless the kidneys are severely damaged. If present, some common symptoms are:
- Pedal edema (Swelling of legs)
- Periorbital edema (Swelling around the eyes)
- Shortness of breath
- A urine-like breath odor
- Vomiting, especially after eating or in the morning
- Abnormally light or dark skin
- Bone pain
- Numbness in your feet and hands
- Weight loss
- Restless leg syndrome
- Brittle nails and hair
- Loss of muscle mass
- Weight loss
- Loss of muscle mass
- Blood in stools
- Easy bleeding and bruising
- Decreased interest in sex
- Excessive thirst
- Sleep apnea
Managing underlying problem such as hypertension can prevent or slow down the progression of kidney disorders.
Your doctor may advise the following to manage kidney disorder with hypertension includes:
Controlling Blood Pressure
Maintaining your pressure is one of the most important things to prevent or manage kidney disorders. Your pressure readings involve two numbers; upper and lower.
The upper number should be ≥130 mmHg and/or lower reading ≥80 mmHg.
You can read more about hypertension management and care in our previous blog.
What you drink and eat can influence your blood pressure. So, choose food items that are low in fat and salt. Here are some tips to get you started:
Consume Less Salt
- Limit salt intake while cooking by adding lemon juice, herbs, or spices.
- Avoid the intake of processed foods.
- Limit the intake of salty snacks and fast food items such as pretzels, chips, or salted nuts.
- Avoid taking foods that are preserved or pickled, such as olives and pickles.
- Consume fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned. If you choose to have canned vegetables, rinse them with water to remove salt before consuming them.
- Prefer items that have “low-sodium” or “reduced-sodium” on their label. You can also look for potassium if you have kidney disease.
Consume Less Fat
- Grill, bake, or your broil foods instead of frying them.
- Prefer lean fish or meat. Trim the fat off and remove the skin of your meats before cooking.
- Prefer items that have “low-fat” or “fat-free” on their label while purchasing salad dressing, low-fat dairy products, and mayonnaise.
- Try canola or olive oil instead of vegetable oil.
- Prefer egg substitute or egg whites instead of whole eggs.
You can also get more details about the best diet plan for hypertension here.
Staying active can help you control your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It also helps in managing stress, which is a triggering factor for hypertension.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, five days a week. This could include cycling, swimming, walking, or jogging.
If it seems too much, you can do 10 minutes of activity three times a day. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Go for a walk after dinner.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Look for activities that you enjoy, such as swimming, dancing, or playing a sport.
However, consult your doctor before starting an exercise plan.
Maintain Healthy Weight
Losing extra pounds aids in lowering blood pressure and thus prevent kidney disorders. It is seen that losing one-kilogram aids in lowering pressure levels by about 1mmg.
Limit Alcohol Intake
While moderate alcohol intake improves blood pressure levels, taking it in excess can make it worse. Guidelines for healthy drinking include:
- For women, one drink in a day.
- For men, two drinks in a day.
Taking tobacco can make kidney problems and hypertension worse. Quitting can lower the risk of kidney disorder or prevent it from getting worse.
If eating healthier, being active, and other lifestyle changes are enough to cure hypertension and manage it. Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent kidney disorders.
There are many types of medications, and your doctor may advise one or more based on your condition.
In most cases, two types of blood pressure medications aid in slowing down kidney damage or protect your kidneys:
- ARB: angiotensin II receptor blocker
- ACE inhibitor: angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor
Your doctor may also prescribe a water pill or diuretic to help your body lose excess fluid that can cause high blood pressure.
It works best when you take medications the way the doctor advises you. Blood pressure medications work best when taken daily.
Hypertension is a long-term condition and, if left unattended, it increases the risk of other disorders, including asthma & kidney diseases. While you may not always be able to prevent kidney disorders, managing hypertension, following a healthy diet, and being active significantly lowers the risk.
If you have hypertension, regular screenings can help in catching kidney disorders at an earlier stage where they can be managed easily. So, if your blood pressure levels are high, talk to your doctor about your risk of kidney diseases and ways to manage it.