How High Blood Pressure Affects Your Kidneys


Michelle N. Watkins

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If water constantly flowed at a very high pressure throughout your home’s plumbing system, you’d probably expect damage to the inside of the pipes. Now, think about the blood flowing throughout your body and you get a good picture of why uncontrolled high blood pressure is so harmful to your health. Over time, high blood pressure damages the tissue inside your arteries, which can lead to issues like heart disease, stroke and vision loss.

Your kidneys can be especially vulnerable to high blood pressure. By knowing the risk factors and effects of blood pressure on your kidneys, you can take steps to control high blood pressure and keep your “pipes” healthy and strong.

The Link Between Kidneys and Blood Pressure

Since your kidneys are packed with branching arteries—and high volumes of blood run through them—high blood pressure can cause the arteries serving the kidneys to narrow, weaken or harden. As a result, damaged arteries aren’t able to deliver enough blood to the kidney tissue and your kidneys become diseased, losing their ability to filter your blood and to regulate the fluid, hormones, acids and salts in your body.

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Common symptoms of kidney problems include:

  • Swollen feet or ankles

  • Muscle cramping at night

  • Needing to urinate more often, especially at night

Anyone can get chronic kidney disease at any age; however, some people have additional risk factors, such as diabetes, a family history of kidney failure, and high blood pressure. This is why people who belong to a population group with high rates of high blood pressure or diabetes—such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Pacific Islanders or American Indians—are also at higher risk for kidney disease.

What You Can Do

For all patients, high blood pressure can be a “silent killer,” since there are no warning signs or symptoms. That’s why it’s important to get regular checkups that include a blood pressure screening. If your numbers are high, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes—including maintaining a healthy diet and weight—or medications that can help bring your blood pressure under control. By extension, you’ll be keeping your kidneys, and the rest of your body, working in top form.