How does high blood pressure affect the kidneys?

High blood pressure can constrict and narrow the blood vessels, which eventually damages and weakens them throughout the body, including in the kidneys. The narrowing reduces blood flow.

If your kidneys’ blood vessels are damaged, they may no longer work properly. When this happens, the kidneys are not able to remove all wastes and extra fluid from your body. Extra fluid in the blood vessels can raise your blood pressure even more, creating a dangerous cycle, and cause more damage leading to kidney failure.

How common are high blood pressure and kidney disease?

Almost 1 in 2 U.S. adults—or about 108 million people—have high blood pressure.1

More than 1 in 7 U.S. adults—or about 37 million people—may have chronic kidney disease (CKD).2

High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure in the United States after diabetes, as illustrated in Figure 1.2

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Figure 1. Causes of kidney failure in the United States2

Who is more likely to have high blood pressure

High blood pressure

You are more likely to have high blood pressure if you

· are older. Blood pressures tends to increase with age. Our blood vessels naturally thicken and stiffen over time.

· have family members with high blood pressure. High blood pressure tends to run in families.

· have unhealthy lifestyle habits. Unhealthy habits such as eating too much sodium (salt), drinking too many alcoholic beverages, or not being physically active can increase your risk of high blood pressure.

· are African American. High blood pressure is more common in African American adults than in Caucasian, Hispanic, or Asian adults.

· are male. Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure before age 55; women are more likely to develop it after age 55.

High blood pressure can be both a cause and a result of kidney disease.

How do health care professionals diagnose high blood pressure

High blood pressure

Blood pressure test results are written with the two numbers separated by a slash. The top number is called the systolic pressure and represents the pressure as the heart beats and pushes blood through the blood vessels. The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure and represents the pressure as blood vessels relax between heartbeats.

Your health care professional will diagnose you with high blood pressure if your blood pressure readings are consistently higher than 130/80 when tested repeatedly in a health care office.

Health care professionals measure blood pressure NIH external link with a blood pressure cuff. You can also buy a blood pressure cuff to monitor your blood pressure at home.



Health care professionals measure blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff.


Many people require two or more medications to control their blood pressure. In addition to an ACE inhibitor or an ARB, a health care professional may prescribe a diuretic—a medication that helps the kidneys remove fluid from the blood—or other blood pressure medications NIH external link.

Physical activity

Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure and reduce your chances of other health problems.

Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. These activities make your heart beat faster and may cause you to breathe harder. Aerobic activities include

· biking (Don’t forget the helmet.)

· swimming

· brisk walking

· wheeling yourself in a wheelchair or engaging in activities that will support you such as chair aerobics



Biking is one type of moderate-intensity exercise that can help lower your blood pressure and weight.

If you have concerns, a health care professional can provide information about how much and what kinds of activity are safe for you.

Body weight

If you are overweight or have obesity, aim to reduce your weight by 7 to 10 percent during the first year of treatment for high blood pressure. This amount of weight loss can lower your chance of developing health problems related to high blood pressure.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is the tool most commonly used to estimate and screen for overweight and obesity in adults. BMI is a measure based on your weight in relation to your height. Your BMI can tell if you are at a normal or healthy weight, are overweight, or have obesity.

· Normal or healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is in the normal or healthy range.

· Overweight. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.

· Obesity. A person with a BMI of 30 to 39.9 is considered to have obesity.

· Extreme obesity. A person with a BMI of 40 or greater is considered to have extreme obesity.

Your goal should be a BMI lower than 25 to help keep your blood pressure under control.3


If you smoke, you should quit. Smoking can damage blood vessels, raise the chance of developing high blood pressure, and worsen health problems related to high blood pressure.


Learning how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health. Some activities that may help you reduce stress include

· being physically active

· practicing yoga NIH external link or tai chi NIH external link

· listening to music

· focusing on something calm or peaceful

· meditating NIH external link



Physical activity can reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

How does eating, diet, and nutrition affect high blood pressure?

Following a healthy eating plan can help lower your blood pressure. Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet is an important part of any healthy eating plan. Your health care professional may recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan NIH external link. DASH focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods that are healthy for your heart and lower in sodium, which often comes from salt. The DASH eating plan

· is low in fat and cholesterol

· features fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products, fish, poultry, and nuts

· suggests less red meat, sweets, added sugars, and sugar-containing beverages

· is rich in nutrients, protein, and fiber



A healthy eating plan includes a variety of healthy, nutritious foods.