More than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension. The causes of it can vary greatly, though the largest contributors are weight, diet, age, smoking, high alcohol consumption, a lack of exercise and genetics.
Consistently high blood pressure is the second leading cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD), outranked only by diabetes. Kidney disease is not curable unless the patient undergoes an organ transplant; and if left untreated, CKD will end in fatality in every single case. In order to ensure kidney health, it's important to understand the risk factors involved and how to steer clear of them. The relationship between blood pressure and CKD is sort of a two-way street -- yes, hypertension is a leading cause of CDK, but "renal hypertension" is a term that refers to high blood pressure that is also caused by kidney disease. Here we'll go over what high blood pressure is and how it affects the kidneys.
What is blood pressure and how is it measured?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force applied to artery walls as blood flows through them. Imagine your arteries are a garden hose. When you turn the water on, the water flows at a consistent pace. But when you put your thumb over half of the nozzle, the water shoots farther because the same amount of water is trying to fit through a smaller space, increasing the pressure. The same principle applies to arteries and blood flow: as the artery gets narrow, the blood flows more quickly (aka higher pressure).
How does blood pressure affect the kidneys?
When arteries that deliver blood to the kidneys become narrow or stiff, blood pressure becomes high. When it stays elevated, it stretches the blood cells and weakens them throughout the body. The main role of the kidneys is to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood and expel them as urine -- but as the kidneys' blood vessels become weakened, the kidneys cannot efficiently filter out harmful waste. As they cease to remove fluid in the blood cells over time, the additional fluid will cause blood pressure to increase even more, creating a vicious cycle. High blood pressure damages the kidneys and as the kidneys become damaged it increases blood pressure. This is what renal hypertension is.
How can I avoid renal hypertension?
Since CKD does not show symptoms until it has reached stage 3, it's important to get regular checkups with your doctor. While you're there, inform them that you would like them to do blood tests for CKD just to confirm your kidney health. That being said, there are measures you can take to alleviate high blood pressure without having to visit a doctor: