Almost 1 in 2 adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and more than 1 in 7 people have chronic kidney disease. The truth is that there’s a lot of overlap between these two groups.

Unless you’re suffering from hypertension or chronic kidney disease, you’ve probably never thought about how your blood pressure impacts your kidneys. However, it’s well documented that there is a connection.

The answer lies in your blood vessels, which play a key role in both conditions. Hypertension can cause blood vessels around the kidneys to harden or narrow. These blood vessels then cannot deliver sufficient blood to the kidneys, causing damage.

In this article, we take a deeper look at the link between high blood pressure and kidney disease, various treatment options, and next steps.

Hypertension or high blood pressure occurs when the force of the blood pushing through your blood vessels is consistently too high.

Narrow blood vessels (usually caused by the buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries) create more resistance for blood and raise blood pressure.

Hypertension occurs slowly over a number of years. It can cause damage to organs like the heart, lungs, eyes, brain, and kidneys.

Most people with high blood pressure don’t have symptoms. But in some rare cases high blood pressure may cause headaches and dizziness. Because you may not notice any symptoms, it’s important to get regular blood pressure checks from your doctor.

High blood pressure may be a result of kidney disease, but it can also be a cause of kidney disease. In fact, high blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes.

This is because hypertension can cause blood vessels to constrict. Eventually, this can weaken and damage vessels throughout the body and cause injury to organs.

If blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, the kidneys may not be able to fully function. This means that they may not remove all the fluids and extra waste from your body. Extra fluid in the blood can raise blood pressure even more. This can ultimately lead to kidney failure.

Much like hypertension, early kidney disease may not have symptoms. As it progresses, you may notice:

  • edema or swelling
  • muscle cramping
  • a lack of appetite
  • an inability to focus

Treatment options for hypertension can include lifestyle changes and medications.

Some lifestyle changes your doctor may suggest include:

  • eating a heart-healthy diet (one high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
  • increasing physical activity
  • reaching a moderate weight
  • ceasing smoking, if you smoke
  • reducing alcohol consumption
  • starting a low-salt diet

Medication options for hypertension can include:

  • Beta-blockers: These make the heart beat more slowly and reduce the amount of blood flowing through the body with each beat. Beta-blockers can also block certain hormones that raise blood pressure.
  • Diuretics: These help reduce extra sodium and fluid in the body, lowering blood pressure.
  • ACE inhibitors: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors prevent the body from producing as much angiotensin, which causes the blood vessels to narrow and tighten.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): These medications help to block angiotensin from binding with receptors, so blood vessels won’t tighten.
  • Calcium channel blockers: These block some of the calcium from entering the heart. This causes less forceful heartbeats. They also help blood vessels to relax.
  • Alpha-2 agonists: These medications impact the nerve impulses that cause blood vessels to tighten, helping them to relax.

Here are some steps you may consider taking to help lower your blood pressure:

  • Reduce stress: You may need to make changes in the hours you work, your activities, or even your relationships.
  • Try slow, deep, rhythmic breathing: You may try meditation, yoga, or other practices that encourage slowing down and taking time to focus on your breathing.
  • Prepare healthy snacks in advance: You’ll be less likely to reach for processed foods if you already have fruits and veggies cut up.
  • Sign-up for an exercise class or running group: Working out with friends can make it more fun and add accountability.

Two types of medications can help lower blood pressure and slow the progression of kidney disease: ACE inhibitors and ARBs.

  • ACE inhibitors help to prevent the body from producing as much angiotensin. This helps the blood vessels to relax.
  • ARBs keep angiotensin from binding with receptors. This can also help the blood vessels to relax. This is key to slowing the progression of kidney disease.

In addition to these medications, your healthcare professional may prescribe a diuretic to help the kidneys remove excess sodium and fluid from the body.

High blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels and ultimately to organs, such as the kidneys.

It’s important to get treatment quickly so waste and extra fluid don’t build up and lead to even higher blood pressure and kidney failure.

If you receive a diagnosis of hypertension, your doctor may prescribe medications and suggest lifestyle changes to manage the condition. Be sure to take any medications as prescribed and keep up with any follow-up visits to track your blood pressure.