Hypertension or commonly referred to as High Blood Pressure is globally considered among the primary causes of Kidney Disease and Kidney Failure.
What is Hypertension?
It is the force exerted by your blood on the blood vessels as it flows around your body. During your hospital visits, it is among the first tests taken at triage before you see a doctor. A blood pressure cuff and the automated machine is used to measure your blood pressure.
When taking your blood pressure, the reading on the automated machine will consist of 2 numbers at the top and the bottom. The number at the top is called the Systolic Blood Pressure. It represents the pressure generated by the heart when it pumps. The lower number called the Diastolic Blood Pressure represents the pressure generated by the heart when it’s relaxed. Normal blood pressure ranges between 110 – 129 / 60 – 79 mmHg. The pre-hypertension stage is between 130 – 139 / 80 – 89 mmHg. If your blood pressure reads above 140 / 90 mmHg, you are considered to be Hypertensive.
Why is it important to monitor your blood pressure?
Measuring your high blood pressure may be assumed as basic and unnecessary. On the contrary, Hypertension is considered of concern overtime if uncontrolled. It continues to damage your heart and blood vessels. This increases the risk of Stroke, Heart Attacks, visual loss, and Kidney Failure. Conversely, High Blood Pressure could also be a symptom of kidney disease.
How does high blood pressure affect the kidneys?
Each kidney contains more than a million filtering units called nephrons. The nephrons are made up of tiny blood vessels. When these blood vessels become damaged by hypertension, they are progressively unable to filter toxins and excess water out of the body. Gradually, the percentage of kidney function reduces and this leads to kidney failure. This can happen suddenly, termed as Acute Kidney Failure; or for many years, called Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD); eventually leading to Chronic Kidney Failure.
How can the kidneys cause High Blood Pressure?
CKD can be caused by High Blood Pressure but it may also be caused by other diseases such as Diabetes, Heart Failure, infections and inflammatory diseases of the kidneys (Glomerulonephritis).
More than half of people with CKD have high blood pressure. This is because the kidneys play a major role in regulating blood pressure in your body, through the production of various hormones. As the kidney function declines, so does its ability to regulate blood pressure, causing hypertension. Hypertension then damages the kidneys further, as well as the heart and other blood vessels around the body.
How can I prevent kidney disease caused by high blood pressure?
- Check your blood pressure regularly
- If you are already hypertensive, control your blood pressure. Take your medications as prescribed by the doctor
- Adopt a healthy diet. Eat less sodium, such as that found in processed foods, and less fat. Speak with a dietician if required
- Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes
- Quit smoking or using tobacco
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Keep your body at a healthy weight. This is by maintaining a Body Mass Index (BMI) range of 18.5 – 24.9
- Be active most days of the week
- Limit stress
How often do I need to get my kidney function checked?
Early kidney disease can only be detected using a simple blood Kidney Function test.
Get your kidney checked at least once a year if you have:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- A family history of kidney disease
It is important to note that Kidney Disease does not have to lead to Kidney Failure.
By Dr. K. B. Soki, Nephrologist at The Nairobi Hospital