High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common medical condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While it’s well-known that hypertension can lead to various cardiovascular issues, its impact on the kidneys is often overlooked.
In this blog, Muthu Velusamy, MD, and our team at Cardiovascular Institute of America in Tampa and Lutz, Florida, explore the intricate relationship between high blood pressure and kidney function.
The role of the kidneys
Before delving into the effects of high blood pressure on the kidneys, let's first understand the vital role these organs play in maintaining overall health. Your two kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products, excess fluids, and toxins from your blood.
They also help regulate blood pressure and maintain the balance of electrolytes in the body. Furthermore, they also produce hormones that are involved in red blood cell production and bone health.
The impact of high blood pressure on the kidneys
If your blood pressure is consistently high, this puts excessive strain on the delicate blood vessels within your kidneys. Over time, this constant pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels, which can lead to several complications including:
Kidney artery damage
High blood pressure can cause the arteries leading to the kidneys to narrow or harden, reducing blood flow and oxygen supply. This condition, known as renal artery stenosis, can impair kidney function.
Reduced filtration rate
The increased pressure within your blood vessels can damage the tiny filtering structures — called nephrons — in the kidneys. As a result, your kidneys' ability to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood decreases, leading to a reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR). If your kidneys don't filter properly, this can result in the accumulation of toxins and fluid retention in your body.
Hypertension can damage the glomeruli, which are structures within the nephrons of your kidneys, and they filter out protein from the blood. If these structures are compromised, protein can leak into your urine, which is a condition called proteinuria. Persistent proteinuria can further contribute to kidney damage.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
Prolonged hypertension can ultimately lead to chronic kidney disease, a condition in which your kidneys’ ability to function deteriorates over time. CKD is a progressive and irreversible condition that may require dialysis or kidney transplantation in severe cases.
Cycle of complications
High blood pressure and kidney disease often coexist and exacerbate each other. When kidneys are damaged due to hypertension, they become less effective in regulating blood pressure, leading to a vicious cycle. Additionally, hypertension-related kidney disease increases the risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Prevention and management
In order to prevent or manage blood pressure or kidney issues, you should make sure to do the following things:
Attending routine medical checkups and undergoing regular blood pressure and kidney function tests can help identify abnormalities as early as possible.
If you have high blood pressure, it's important to take prescribed medications consistently as directed by Dr. Velusamy. Not doing so could raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for kidney complications.
Healthy lifestyle choices
Maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco products, and managing stress can significantly reduce your risk for developing high blood pressure and kidney complications. Furthermore, you should also try to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, which would be one that’s low in sodium and high in fruits and vegetables.
If you have high blood pressure and want help managing it, or if you want to keep from developing the condition, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Cardiovascular Institute of America today.