29 Sep High Blood Pressure? Check Your Kidneys
You heart contracts (“beats”) to push blood through your body. The right amount of pressure keeps blood moving. Too little pressure (hypotension) can make you light-headed or even pass out. Too much pressure (hypertension) can damage your blood vessels and organs.
High blood pressure means that there is too much force pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. This happens because the vessel is too narrow or because the hormones that control blood pressure are not in balance. Your kidneys produce some of these hormones.
High blood pressure causes your blood vessels to stretch. The damages the tissue and leaves scars that weaken vessel walls.
In addition to producing hormones, kidneys filter waste and water from your blood. Your blood flows into the kidneys through arteries (large blood vessels). Then it divides into smaller vessels to reach the millions of microscopic filters (glomeruli) in your kidney. These filters allow waste flow out, and keep blood and important proteins in the body.
If hypertension is not managed, the high pressure damages the glomeruli filters. They become ‘leaky,’ and blood and proteins leak into the urine. Other waste products are not filtered correctly and remain in the body. If not controlled, the kidneys may stop working. This damage is irreversible and requires dialysis or a kidney transplant. Patients with kidney damage don’t have any symptoms until the damage is severe. So it’s very important for a doctor to check your kidney function.
How can I test my kidney function?
If you have hypertension, you need to make regular doctor visits to check kidney function. This involves two important tests:
- GFR (glomerular filtration rate): this is a blood test that measures how much waste is being filtered by the kidneys. The following numbers reflect how healthy your kidneys are:
- Normal: GFR greater than 60
- Kidney disease: GFR below 60
- Kidney failure: GFR below 15
- ACR (Albumin-to-creatinine ratio): This is a urine test for proteins (albumin) or blood. Any amount of these in your urine, it is a sign of kidney damage.
How can I prevent kidney damage?
Anything you do to manage high blood pressure will prevent kidney damage. You can learn more about hypertension here (link to Blog#2 HTN blog). But some important steps you can take include:
- Medication: High blood pressure does not cause symptoms early in the disease. It is important to take any prescriptions to manage blood pressure.
- Quite smoking: smoking causes your blood vessels to constrict. This raises blood pressure throughout your body, increasing damage to your kidneys.
- Diet: eating a diet high in LDL or “bad” cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis, or blockage in your arteries. Eat low-fat foods, or healthy fats that contain HDL.(Blog#4 to learn more about good and bad cholesterol)
Manage blood sugar: If you are diabetic, it is important that you manage your blood sugar levels. Hypertension is the second leading cause of kidney damage in the United States. Damage caused by diabetes is the leading cause.