Hypertension and Your Kidneys

 

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is another term for high blood pressure, a condition that occurs when the pressure inside your artery walls increases. Your blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart is pumping and the resistance in your arteries. When your arteries are narrow or stiff, it’s harder for blood to flow through them. Trying to pump the same amount of blood through an artery that’s narrower or less flexible causes the pressure inside the artery to rise. Left untreated, hypertension can cause serious health problems.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

On its own, hypertension causes few, if any, symptoms until serious medical issues like kidney damage or heart disease develop. That’s why seeing your doctor regularly for routine physicals and other office visits is so important to making sure high blood pressure is caught early, before it has a chance to do lasting damage.

How does hypertension affect my kidneys?

When blood pressure inside the arteries is increased, that means every time blood enters your kidneys, it’s exerting a force that’s beyond the normal range. Over a prolonged period of time, that increased force can damage the kidneys, causing them to malfunction. Keeping blood pressure within a normal range helps avoid the damage that can be caused by hypertension. High blood pressure has also been associated with other medical conditions, including heart disease and stroke as well as some types of dementia.

How is hypertension treated?

Hypertension is usually treated with medication aimed at lowering blood pressure and, therefore, decreasing the strain on blood vessels and organs. Having your blood pressure monitored on a regular basis is important for diagnosing high blood pressure early as well as for monitoring the effectiveness of your medication. You can also take steps to lower blood pressure by making important lifestyle changes like losing excess weight, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet that’s high in fiber and low in fats, learning to manage stress and staying physically active.

How can I tell if I’m at risk for high blood pressure?

The best way to know if you’re at risk for high blood pressure is to schedule an appointment to have your blood pressure taken and discuss your medical history and your family medical history to determine if you need to be monitored more frequently. The primary risk factors for hypertension include:

  • smoking
  • older age
  • family history of diabetes
  • being obese or overweight
  • leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • eating a diet high in fats and sodium (salt)
  • excessive consumption of alcohol
  • having a chronic health condition like kidney disease or obstructive sleep apnea

Keep your blood pressure under control.

If you have any of these risk factors, be sure to ask your doctor about the best ways to monitor your blood pressure so you can avoid hypertension or treat hypertension if it develops. Being proactive and knowing your risk factors are the best ways to lower your risks for serious blood pressure-related medical issues so you can stay as healthy as possible.