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High blood pressure & your kidneys.

Are high blood pressure and kidney disease related?

Yes. High blood pressure and kidney disease are closely related. If uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to kidney damage. It is a leading cause of kidney failure in the United States. On the other hand, certain kidney problems, such as renal artery stenosis (see panel three), can cause high blood pressure. Correcting the kidney problem may eliminate high blood pressure in some of these cases.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries in the body as it circulates to supply nutrition and oxygen to the cells. What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure occurs when blood vessels become narrow or rigid, forcing the heart to pump harder to push blood through the body When the force of the blood against the artery walls becomes too high, a person is said to have high blood pressure or hypertension.

What do the numbers on a blood pressure reading mean?

The upper number on your blood pressure reading is the systolic pressure. This measures how hard the heart works to pump blood. The lower number or diastolic pressure is the pressure on the arteries when the heart is resting between beats. A blood pressure of 140/90 or more is considered high for adults. For older persons (65 or over), a blood pressure of 160/90 or more is considered high.

How many people have high blood pressure?

Close to 60 million Americans have high blood pressure. It affects about 24 percent of the white population and 38 percent of the black population.

Can children have high blood pressure?

Yes, although high blood pressure is not as common as in adults. Regular blood pressure checkups should begin during childhood and continue throughout life.

How is high blood pressure detected?

High blood pressure is a silent disease. Symptoms are not usually present, although some people with high blood pressure have headaches, dizziness, or nose bleeds. Generally, the only way to find out whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. Your doctor, nurse or other health professional can measure your blood pressure quickly and painlessly using a device called a sphygmomanometer. If the first blood pressure reading is high, it is important to have it measured again. A single abnormal reading does not necessarily mean you have high blood pressure.

What causes high blood pressure?

Although many different diseases, including kidney disease, may cause high blood pressure, 90 percent of the time, no cause is identified. These individuals are considered to have "primary" or "essential" hypertension. Some people have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure. These include: older persons, people with a family history of high blood pressure, overweight individuals, and blacks. Too much salt in the diet may also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure in some people.

What kidney problems cause high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can develop as a result of any one of a variety of kidney diseases. Some of the common types of kidney disease that cause high blood pressure are:

1) Glomerulonephritis (sometimes called Bright's disease)--the tiny filtering units of the kidneys (called glomeruli) become inflamed. This can be acute or chronic. There are many different types of glomerulonephritis.

2) Polycystic disease--large cysts develop in the kidneys, destroying surrounding normal kidney tissue. This disease is usually inherited.

3) Renal artery stenosis--the main artery to one or both kidneys becomes narrow due to disease of the blood vessels.

In addition, kidney failure can cause high blood pressure by causing a person to retain too much salt and fluid or by causing the release of a hormone called renin.

Some of these conditions can be successfully treated, thus eliminating the associated high blood pressure. For example, renal artery stenosis can be corrected with surgery or a technique called angioplasty.

What else causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is occasionally caused by an abnormality in an endocrine gland, such as the adrenal, pituitary, thyroid or parathyroid gland. These cases are relatively rare and they can be cured by treatment of the endocrine abnormality. Certain drugs such as birth control pills, decongestants, and diet pills can also raise blood pressure. Your doctor can advise you about stopping the medication or switching to another drug.

Why is high blood pressure so dangerous?

If high blood pressure is left uncontrolled, it can damage vital organs--namely the heart, brain, kidneys, and arteries in other parts of the body. It speeds up the process of atherosclerosis, which is the formation of cholesterol deposits in blood vessels causing the vessels to become blocked. Blocked blood vessels leading to the heart produce heart attacks. The strain of pumping blood against a high blood pressure can cause the heart to fail. Blocked blood vessels leading to the brain lead to strokes and, if the blood pressure is extremely high, blood vessels in the brain can rupture, which is called cerebral hemorrhage. Blocked blood vessels in the legs can lead to gangrene.

Life insurance companies have researched the relationship between high blood pressure and life expectancy Their studies reveal that even mild high blood pressure, untreated, in some cases may shorten life.

Is high blood pressure more serious in blacks?

Yes. High blood pressure is a leading cause of death among black Americans. For every black American who dies of sickle cell anemia, 100 will die of high blood pressure. In addition to developing high blood pressure more frequently than whites, blacks tend to develop more severe cases of high blood pressure and to get it at an earlier age. The high rate and greater severity of the disease among blacks relates directly to the tact that more black Americans have strokes, heart failure, and kidney failure. About 30 percent of the people who need dialysis or a kidney transplant because their kidneys failed are black. Therefore, it is extremely important for black Americans to have regular blood pressure checkups and to follow doctor's orders regarding treatment if is develop high blood pressure.

How does high blood pressure damage the kidneys?

High blood pressure can cause the blood vessels of the kidneys to become thickened and rigid. As this reduces the blood supply to the kidneys, they can no longer function efficiently. Therefore, the kidneys become unable to remove waste products from the body. Salt is retained, which causes the body to hold fluid. This extra fluid puts a burden on the heart. The decrease in blood supply also results in damage to kidney tissue, which leads to further decline of kidney function. Eventually, total kidney failure occurs, with uremic poisoning. This type of kidney damage happens if the blood pressure is uncontrolled. However, it can be prevented if the blood pressure is brought under control with treatment.

How is high blood pressure treated?

If high blood pressure is detected, your doctor may suggest that you change some aspects of your lifestyle. Losing weight, cutting down on salt and alcohol, stopping smoking, exercising regularly, and reducing stress are often helpful in controlling high blood pressure.

If the changes you make in your lifestyle do not normalize your blood pressure or if your blood pressure is extremely high, your doctor will prescribe medications. It may be necessary to prescribe several different medications to get your blood pressure under control. In most cases, you will need to take medication for the rest of your life.

Do high blood pressure medicines have side effects?

Yes. Some of the possible side effects of different high blood pressure medications include: weakness, fatigue, insomnia, increased frequency of urination, depression, drowsiness, dry mouth, nasal congestion, dizziness, headaches, and decreased sexual function. You should report any side effects you experience to your doctor. He or she can change to medications that eliminate intolerable side effects.

Do high blood pressure medicines interact with other drugs?

Yes. Certain drugs may interact with high blood pressure medicines. Therefore, you should inform your doctor about all drugs you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines.

Can blood pressure medications affect sexual functioning?

Yes. Some high blood pressure medications may interfere with sexual performance. If you experience this problem, you should consult your doctor about reducing the dose or switching to another medication. Enjoyment of sexual activity is possible for people with high blood pressure.

How can people with high blood pressure help themselves?

It is important to take medications as directed, even if you are feeling fine. Since certain drugs may interact with high blood pressure medications, tell your doctor about all drugs you are taking including over-the-counter medications.

Follow your doctor's recommendations regarding lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising regularly, reducing salt intake, cutting down on foods that are high in cholesterol, eliminating smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and learning to relax.

You and your doctor will need to work together to keep your blood pressure under control. It is important to remember that blood pressure can be controlled and treated successfully Early detection and long-term treatment are the keys to a longer, healthier life by preventing kidney failure, heart disease, and stroke.

The National Kidney Foundation, Inc., is the major voluntary health agency seeking the total answer to diseases of the kidney and urinary tract... prevention, treatment and cure. Although affiliate services may vary depending on community resources, the Foundation's many-faceted program brings help and hope to millions of Americans who suffer from kidney and urinary tract disease, through research, patient services, nation-wide organ donor program, professional education and public information. Such activities are made possible by voluntary contributions of a concerned and generous public.

The National Kidney Foundation appreciates the education grant received from Allen a Hanburys, Division of GLAXO, Inc., Research Triangle Park, NC and the creative services of ROC/SOC Marketing, Inc., New York, for the development of this pamphlet.
COPYRIGHT 1994 National Kidney Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Pamphlet by: National Kidney Foundation
Article Type:Pamphlet
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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