High Blood Pressure Effects on the Kidneys

Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Permanent Kidney Damage.

The kidneys play a major role in maintaining normal blood pressure. However, uncontrolled high blood pressure, also called hypertension, can slowly damage the blood vessels in the kidneys. This may eventually lead to kidney failure.

Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood against the blood vessels’ walls. If blood pressure remains higher than normal, it is called hypertension. An increase in extra fluid in the blood and narrow or clogged blood vessels can raise the blood pressure.

Over time, a sustained high blood pressure makes the heart work harder and can eventually damage the blood vessels throughout the body. Damaged blood vessels in the kidneys can result in their inability to remove wastes and extra fluid from the body. This can further raise blood pressure.

High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure, also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). People whose kidneys stopped working, must either undergo regular dialysis or kidney transplantation.

Experts recommend that people, especially those with kidney damage, should keep their blood pressure below 130/80.

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High blood pressure itself usually has not signs or symptoms. Most people with this condition may have it for years without knowing it. In some people, headaches may be the only symptom they experience.

Some people may only learn that they have high blood pressure after the damage has caused problems, such as stroke, heart disease, or kidney failure.

A way to know whether your blood pressure is high is to have it checked by a health care professional.

High blood pressure can damage the kidneys over time. Kidney damage, like high blood pressure, usually has no symptoms and is detected only through medical tests.

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Treatment of hypertension includes lifestyle changes and medications. Sticking to the treatment plan is important to prevent or delay problems with the kidneys and other complications and help you to live and stay active longer.

Lifestyle changes include following a healthy eating plan, getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake.
 Follow a healthy eating plan.
  • Limit your daily salt intake to 2,000 milligrams or lower.
  • Avoid foods high in fats and cholesterol.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Too much alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure.
  • If you already have kidney damage, your doctor may ask you to cut back on your protein intake.
 Get plenty of exercise, be physically active. Check with your health care provider about how much and what kinds of exercise or activity are safe for you. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week unless your doctor tells otherwise. Moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, riding a bicycle, dancing, and cleaning the house.

 Maintain a healthy weight. Following your recommended healthy eating plan and exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight.

 Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.

For some people, lifestyle changes alone can control their blood pressure, however, many people also need to take blood pressure medicines to keep their blood pressure controlled.

There are many types of blood pressure medicines but there are two groups of medications that lower blood pressure and have protective effect on the kidneys. They are angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB). Diuretics, also called “water pills”, may also be prescribed by the doctor in addition to ACE inhibitor or ARB. Diuretics help to flush excess water and salt from the body. This would lessen the amount of fluid in the blood, thus lowers blood pressure.

Even if you don’t feel anything, you should have your blood pressure checked regularly. Early detection of high blood pressure and treating it early can help prevent future damage to your kidneys and other complications.


Diseases and Conditions Index. High Blood Pressure, What is. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. April 2008. Accessed July 2008. Available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbp/HBP_WhatIs.html

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases information Clearinghouse. High Blood Pressure and Kidney Disease. National Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. NIH Publication No. 05-4572, August 2005. Accessed July 2008. Available at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/highblood/index.htm

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