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How Hypertension Affects the Kidneys

Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on February 12, 2023

The effects of hypertension (high blood pressure) on various organs in the body are substantial. Heart damage, artery damage, stroke, and even dementia can all result from chronically high blood pressure. But many aren’t aware of how high blood pressure affects the kidneys. Here are the facts.


High blood pressure and kidney disease


Let’s take a look at two common conditions that are intricately linked: High blood pressure, which affects 108 million American adults and is the second leading cause of kidney failure in the US, and chronic kidney disease, which affects 37 million Americans.


How are the two diseases related? High blood pressure constricts blood vessels throughout the body, gradually weakening them over time. Constricted or narrowed blood vessels cause blood flow to be significantly reduced. This restriction of blood flow occurs in the kidneys as well and inhibits the kidneys’ ability to filter waste and excess fluid from the body.  


Excess fluid buildup in the body further raises blood pressure, leading to a vicious cycle scenario. Eventually, the kidneys become so damaged that kidney failure is an almost certain outcome. 


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What The Kidneys Actually Do

What The Kidneys Actually Do

Risk factors for hypertension and kidney disease


Now you know how high blood pressure leads to kidney disease, and you surely want to prevent both conditions. Along with making the necessary lifestyle changes (detailed below), you should be aware of your risk factors.


Risk factors for hypertension include:


  • Having diabetes
  • Eating a high-sodium diet
  • Being obese
  • Drinking alcohol to excess
  • Smoking
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle 


Kidney disease shares the same risk factors, with the addition of:


  • Heart disease
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • African-American descent
  • Age


Preventing hypertension and taking care of your kidneys


Fortunately, leading a healthy lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk for both high blood pressure and kidney problems. Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to keep your internal organs running smoothly.


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Blood Pressure - Hypertension

Blood Pressure - Hypertension

  • Avoid tobacco. If you smoke, quit. Smoking cigarettes raises your blood pressure and damages the heart. 
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Being obese can cause diabetes and heart disease, which, as stated above, raise your risk for hypertension and kidney disease.
  • Exercise. Working out for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is essential to preventing numerous health problems. 
  • Limit your alcohol intake. The CDC recommends that men drink no more than two alcoholic beverages per day, while women shouldn’t have more than one. 
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is incredibly damaging to the body and the mind and has been linked to high blood pressure as well as chronic kidney disease.


Written by Natan Rosenfeld

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