Understanding the Connection Between Hypertension and Kidney Disease

Understanding the Connection Between Hypertension and Kidney Disease

Understanding the Connection Between Hypertension and Kidney Disease

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Understanding the Connection Between Hypertension and Kidney Disease
Understanding the Connection Between Hypertension and Kidney Disease

When an underlying medical condition, poor diet or genetics leads to hypertension, the constantly raised blood pressure in the arteries creates damage to blood vessels throughout the body— including the glomerular capillaries in the kidneys.

Kidney Function

The kidneys a bean-shaped organ located on either side of the spine in the middle of the back. Though they are only roughly the size of a fist, the kidneys meticulously process 200 quarts of blood per day in order to filter out a mere two quarts of waste products and excess fluid. This waste and excess fluid becomes urine that then sent down to the bladder through small tubes called ureters.

The actual removal of wastes occurs in the millions of tiny units inside each kidney called nephrons. Inside each nephron, a ball of small, porous blood vessels (or capillaries) called a glomerulus. After a complicated chemical exchange normal protein and red blood cells are kept in the bloodstream while wastes and getting rid of excess fluids. The tubules then transport the waste material to the ureters. This entire process not only keeps the body free of toxins but regulates the body’s blood pressure by keeping excess fluid out of the bloodstream.

When kidneys fail

When kidneys fail, it is because the nephrons have been attacked and have lost their ability to filter. Injury and poisoning can quickly obliterate nephrons. However, kidney ailments such as diabetic kidney disease, glomerular diseases and hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) are much slower in their destruction and devastatingly silent.

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In fact, where there is kidney disease, hypertension becomes a prevalent concern because of the unfortunate, reciprocal relationship between the two. Not only hypertension the second leading cause of kidney disease right behind diabetes, About 80% of those suffering from a pre-existing kidney disorder will eventually develop hypertension. Regardless of which comes first, the problem lies in having excess fluid trapped in the bloodstream.

When an underlying medical condition, poor diet or genetics leads to hypertension. The constantly raised blood pressure in the arteries creates damage to blood vessels throughout the body— including the kidneys. Whether slight or massive, their destruction will inevitably result in decreased kidney function. On the other hand, when some other isolated malady destroys the kidney’s ability to filter out excess fluid, the result is hypertension.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

In their early phases, neither hypertension nor kidney disease emit any warning signs. Symptoms typically only noticed by the mid-to-late stages. Those with advanced hypertension may begin to experience physical weakness, shortness of breath, severe headache or blood in their urine. Changes in urination, swelling, fatigue, nausea, vomiting or pain in the back or side symptoms commonly experienced by those progressing into the late stages of kidney disease.

Treatment

Specific treatment for hypertension and kidney disease will vary from patient to patient.  The treatment usually consists of a balanced combination of medication, diet changes, and exercise. Should a sufferer go into kidney failure, dialysis or a kidney transplant (if not both) will be the only remaining treatment options. Two particularly recommended practices for the prevention of hypertension and kidney disease; having blood pressure checked regularly and also having annual physicals that include blood and urine tests.

During treatment, the regular use of alcohol can become an issue for sufferers of kidney disease and hypertension. While the consumption of alcohol itself does not harm the kidneys in the short-term. But excessive (or binge) drinking over long periods has the potential to trigger a vicious cycle.

An individual in perfect health will see a rise in his or her blood pressure within three drinks. Therefore, hypertension sufferers who drink excessively will push their already abnormally high blood pressure into dangerous zones. This progresses damage to blood vessels and hastens hypertension sufferers down the path to oncoming kidney disease. If kidney damage present, the excess fluid will accumulate the body and will exacerbate hypertension. This, in turn, will damage the kidneys even further.

Healthy lifestyle habits to avoid hypertension

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) specifically recommends that people with kidney disease use whatever medical therapy prescribed by their doctor or specialist to slow or prevent further damage while incorporating healthy lifestyle habits that include:

  • maintaining weight at a healthy level
  • eating fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Limiting sodium intake to 2,000 milligrams
  • exercising at least 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days per week
  • avoiding the use of tobacco and illicit drugs
  • keeping the alcohol consumption to a minimum no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women

With an estimated 26 million American adults suffering from kidney disease, and another 65 million currently walking around with hypertension, there is cause for concern on a wide scale. The kidneys are not an organ that one can live without. When the damage is done, it is real and it is final. Therefore, it only makes sense to be more vigilant in the awareness, prevention, and management of these silent killers.

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