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Your Kidneys and High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major contributing factor to many chronic health conditions, that’s why you hear so much about the importance of managing your blood pressure. According to the American heart Association, an estimated one in three Americans has high blood pressure, which is signified by a systolic pressure (the top number in your blood pressure reading) of 140 or higher, and a diastolic (bottom number) of 90 or higher. The latest thinking, however, is that normal is relative, and to determine your ideal blood pressure range, talk with the care team at Valley Urological Associates or your family doctor.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can wreak havoc on your body. Although you may not realize it, hypertension has dangerous consequences for the kidneys, so you have one more reason to practice a lifestyle that enables you to keep your blood pressure under control.
Hypertension is especially dangerous because most people who have the problem have no symptoms. Although some individuals may experience headaches or changes in vision, most have no symptoms at all. Inside their bodies, though, the effect of hypertension can be devastating, affecting the brain, heart, kidney, and arteries.
Over time, hypertension damages the arteries, causing them to lose their elasticity, narrow and harden. In the brain, the effect of high blood pressure weakens small blood vessels, making them more susceptible to leaking or rupturing, which could lead to a stroke. As the damage to blood vessels spreads throughout the body, the heart is affected in a number of ways. As in other part of the body, the increased pressure inside the vessels causes them to narrow, limiting blood flow to parts of the heart muscle. At the same time, the heart is working harder to pump blood to other parts of the body, resulting in an enlarged heart. In time, the heart weakens and is more susceptible to a heart attack and congestive heart failure.
The kidney are also affected in dramatic ways. The primary job of the kidneys is to remove excess fluid and waste from the body. To accomplish this, the kidneys must work in tandem with the blood vessels throughout the body. If the vessels aren’t healthy, then the kidneys can’t perform their function. At the same time, just as hypertension damages blood vessels in other parts of the body, the vessels in the kidneys are also affected. Hypertension damages the tiny vessels in the kidneys that serve as filtering factories, known as glomeruli. These vessels experience a kind of scarring, and as they lose their ability to function, the kidneys are less effective in filtering and removing fluids and waste from the blood, ultimately leading to kidney failure. And, just as vessels in other parts of the body are weakened and more susceptible to rupturing, the vessels within the kidneys can also burst, creating life-threatening problems.
So, if you didn’t already have enough reasons to maintain a healthy blood pressure, now you have one more! Your kidneys are counting on you, and so are we at Valley Urological Associates!
For more information about high blood pressure and its effect on the kidneys, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (www.nhlbi.nih.gov) and the American Heart Association (www.heart.org).