Polycystic Kidney Disease and High Blood Pressure: Tips for Managing

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Measuring Blood Pressure

Polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, is an inherited disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts to grow in your kidneys. As the cysts grow in number and size, they affect your kidneys’ ability to function. Most people with PKD have a type called autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, or ADPKD. One of the most common complications of ADPKD is high blood pressure. Since untreated high blood pressure can cause further damage to your kidneys, it’s essential to try to get it under control. Here are some tips.

Make lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure.

The first step in managing high blood pressure is learning to make healthy lifestyle choices. The same advice given to people in the general public with high blood pressure applies to people with polycystic kidney disease. Try to incorporate the following:

  • Lose weight if needed. Even a small weight loss can help improve your blood pressure.
  • Commit to regular exercise. Shoot for about 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. Talk to your doctor about what types of exercise are best.
  • Watch what you eat. Stick to a low-sodium (salt), low-fat diet and focus on healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins.
  • Pay attention to what you drink. Your doctor may suggest you limit alcohol and caffeine but increase your water intake to help your blood pressure. However, be sure to ask your doctor what your fluid goal should be each day. Some people with kidney disease need to be careful not to overload on fluid.
  • Quit smoking. Your blood pressure rises immediately after smoking even one cigarette.
  • Lower your stress levels. Try to identify and reduce stressors in your life. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and spend some time each day doing things you enjoy or find relaxing.

The bottom line? Most things that are good for your overall health will have positive impact on your blood pressure.

Consider blood pressure medications if needed.

Many people with polycystic kidney disease require medications to treat their high blood pressure. Two main types are primarily used:

  • Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: These medications stop your body from making angiotensin, a substance in your body that causes your blood vessels to constrict, thereby lowering your blood pressure. Common examples include captopril (Capoten) and enalapril (Vasotec).
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): Rather than prevent your body from making angiotensin, these drugs block angiotensin from taking effect. Valsartan (Diovan) and losartan (Cozaar) are two frequently prescribed ARBs

Generally, these blood pressure medications are well-tolerated and effective, but talk to your doctor about things you should watch for, such as signs that your blood pressure has dropped too low. Also, remember you need to take your medication every day as directed in order for it to work properly. You may also benefit from a medication that treats ADPKD specifically, like the newly approved tolvaptan (Jynarque). By treating the root cause of the disease, you may get better control of your blood pressure levels.

Keep the management of your health an ongoing priority.

Polycystic kidney disease is a chronic condition, meaning you will have it for the rest of your life. So, even if you are able to lower your blood pressure to a healthy range, continue to stay on top of your health and make good choices. You may want to purchase a blood pressure cuff, so you can continue to monitor it at home. Your doctor will let you know what range to aim for, but it will likely be 140/90 or lower.

Ongoing communication with your doctor is important. Don’t miss any scheduled appointments and always contact your doctor with any new questions or concerns.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2022 May 14
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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