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A Special Note from the Nurse

March is Health  

High Blood Pressure and the Kidneys


The human body is a well-organized system that is designed to work in a systematic format. When the human body is healthy, it is able to function a with little or no issues. When one of our body’s system begin to fail, other systems are affected as well. 

Many people do not realize that high blood pressure can affect the way the kidneys function. High blood pressure can and will affect the kidneys by constricting and narrowing the blood vessels, causing the vessels to become weakened throughout the body. When the weakened blood vessels are weakened and narrowed, the blood flow to the kidneys is reduced. Once the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, the kidneys will no longer function in a systematic manner. Damaged kidneys are not able to remove the body’s waste and the extra fluids from the body. When the extra fluid remains in the body, your blood pressure become elevated for longer periods of time and this will cause more damage to the kidneys and cause kidney failure. (

The relationship between high blood pressure and kidney disease share common factors. According ( high blood pressure and kidney disease are very common. It is noted that 1 in 2 U.S. adults or about 108 million people will have high blood pressure, while 1 in 7 U.S. adults or about 37 million people may have chronic kidney disease. In the U.S. blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure following diabetes. 

As noted by the (, you are more likely to have high blood pressure if you:

  • are older. Blood pressures tends to increase with age. Our blood vessels naturally thicken and stiffen over time.

  • have family members with high blood pressure. High blood pressure tends to run in families.

  • have unhealthy lifestyle habits. Unhealthy habits such as eating too much sodium (salt), drinking too many alcoholic beverages, or not being physically active can increase your risk of high blood pressure.

  • are African American. High blood pressure is more common in African American adults than in Caucasian, Hispanic, or Asian adults.

  • are male. Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure before age 55; women are more likely to develop it after age 55.

In addition to high blood pressure, other factors that increase your risk of kidney disease are:

  • diabetes

  • a family history of kidney failure

  • race or ethnicity—African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians tend to have a greater risk for CKD

High blood pressure can be both a cause and a result of kidney disease. According to (, most people with high blood pressure do not have symptoms. In rare cases, high blood pressure can cause headaches. Early CKD also may not have symptoms. As kidney disease gets worse, some people may have swelling, called edema. Edema happens when the kidneys cannot get rid of extra fluid and salt. Edema can occur in the legs, feet, ankles, or—less often—in the hands or face.

Symptoms of advanced kidney disease can include:

  • loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting

  • drowsiness, feeling tired, or sleep problems

  • headaches or trouble concentrating

  • increased or decreased urination

  • generalized itching or numbness, dry skin, or darkened skin

  • weight loss

  • muscle cramps

  • chest pain or shortness of breath

How do health care professionals diagnose high blood pressure and kidney disease?


High blood pressure

Blood pressure test results are written with the two numbers separated by a slash. The top number is called the systolic pressure and represents the pressure as the heart beats and pushes blood through the blood vessels. The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure and represents the pressure as blood vessels relax between heartbeats. Your health care professional will diagnose you with high blood pressure if your blood pressure readings are consistently higher than 130/80 when tested repeatedly in a health care office. Health care professionals measure blood pressure NIH external link with a blood pressure cuff. You can also buy a blood pressure cuff to monitor your blood pressure at home.

Kidney disease

To check for kidney disease, health care professionals use

  • a blood test that checks how well your kidneys are filtering your blood, called GFR, which stands for glomerular filtration rate.

  • a urine test to check for albumin. Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.

If you have kidney disease, your health care professional will use the same two tests to monitor your kidney disease.

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