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High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure. Every year, high blood pressure causes more than 25,000 new cases of kidney failure in the United States.

Your kidneys play a key role in keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range, and blood pressure, in turn, affects the health of your kidneys.

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 makes your heart work harder and can damage blood vessels throughout your body. Damaged blood vessels in the kidneys may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from your body. The extra fluid in your blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more. It’s a dangerous cycle.

How do I know 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 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. Your blood pressure is considered normal if it stays below 120/80. People with a systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139 or a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89 are considered pre-hypertensive and should adopt health-promoting lifestyle changes to prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels. If your systolic blood pressure is consistently 140 or higher or your diastolic pressure is 90 or higher, you have high blood pressure and should talk with your doctor about the best ways to lower it.

How do I know 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 prevent 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.

How do I control my blood pressure?

  • 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.

Are there medicines that control high blood pressure?

If lifestyle changes alone do not control your blood pressure, medications may be an option. ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) lower blood pressure and have an added protective effect on the kidney. Your doctor may also prescribe a diuretic (water pill) because they help you urinate and get rid of excess fluid in your body.

What groups are at risk for kidney failure related to high blood pressure?

All racial groups have some risk of developing kidney failure from high blood pressure. African Americans, however, are six times more likely than Caucasians to have high blood pressure and to develop kidney problems from it—even when their blood pressure is only mildly elevated.

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