Dr. MJ Bazos MD< Patient Handout
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) and Kidney Disease

Your kidneys play a role in keeping your blood pressure at the right level. This is important because blood pressure is closely related to the health of the kidneys. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can damage the kidneys.

As blood flows through your veins, it presses against the walls of your blood vessels. Extra fluid in your body increases the volume of fluid in your blood and makes your blood pressure higher. Narrow or clogged blood vessels also raise blood pressure.

High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and, over time, can damage blood vessels throughout the body. If the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, they may stop doing their job of removing wastes and extra fluid from the blood. The extra fluid may then raise blood pressure even more.

After diabetes, high blood pressure is the leading cause of kidney failure, commonly called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Patients with ESRD must either go on dialysis or receive a new kidney through transplant. Every year, high blood pressure causes more than 15,000 new cases of ESRD in the United States.

Most people with high blood pressure do not have any symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to have it measured by a health professional. The measurement consists of two numbers that represent the pressure when your heart is beating and when it is resting between beats. A person's blood pressure is considered high if it goes over 140/90 millimeters of mercury.

African Americans are more likely than whites to have high blood pressure and to develop kidney problems from it even when blood pressure is only mildly elevated. In fact, African Americans aged 25 to 44 are 20 times more likely than their white counterparts to develop hypertension-related kidney failure. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is sponsoring a study to find effective ways to prevent hypertension-related ESRD in African Americans.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, also part of NIH, has found that four steps can help control blood pressure:

Many people need medication to control high blood pressure. A group of medications called ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure and have an added protective effect on the kidney in diabetic patients. If you have high blood pressure, see your doctor regularly.