Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels as your heart pumps blood around your body. When you have high blood pressure, it means the pressure is too high. High blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease and strokes.
How do I know if I have high blood pressure?
Most people with high blood pressure do not have any symptoms. You can have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. For this reason, it is often called a “silent killer.” The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure is measured using a blood pressure cuff around your arm. The cuff is pumped up and then the pressure is slowly reduced while listening for the pulse sound. Blood pressure is measured as two numbers. The top number (called “systolic pressure”) is the pressure when your heart is beating. The bottom number (called “diastolic pressure”) is the pressure when your heart is resting between beats. A blood pressure of 120/80 is read as “120 over 80.” Normal blood pressure in adults 18 and older is about 120/80 or less. In general, for adults 18 and older, blood pressure that stays around 140/90 or more is considered high. A single high reading may not mean you have high blood pressure. It should be confirmed on follow-up visits to your healthcare provider or by self-measurements at home. If you have renal disease, your blood pressure should always be below 140/90, or else it must be treated.
Is high blood pressure dangerous?
Yes. High blood pressure will cause problems in many organs in your body, including your kidneys and your heart. It makes your heart work harder. Over time, this can cause your heart to become larger and weaker, which increases your risk of heart failure. Also, high blood pressure is a frequent cause of irregular heartbeat, so-called atrial fibrillation. This causes the formation of blood clots which may lead to a stroke, which is an cerebral infarction. It can also cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys. Over time, this can lead to kidney disease or kidney failure. High blood pressure is a cause of premature death. In fact, according to a recent report from the American Heart Association, high blood pressure contributes to nearly 1,000 deaths per day! Keeping your blood pressure under control lowers your risk for these problems and protects your kidney. That is why it is important to find out if you have high blood pressure and get treatment for it.
What should I do if I have high blood pressure?
Eat healthy meals, get regular exercise, and limit your salt intake. Avoid alcohol. You may also need to regularly take special pills to help control blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure under control is the best way to reduce your chance of kidney disease or other health problems, including heart attacks or strokes. Control your blood pressure yourself at home regularly and record the results.
What causes high blood pressure?
The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known. However, some things may play a role in its development, including:
- Being overweight
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much salt intake
- Drinking too much alcohol (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
- Old age
- Family history of high blood pressure (heredity)
- Race (African Americans have high blood pressure more often and more severely than White Americans)
- Chronic kidney disease
How is high blood pressure treated?
Your healthcare provider will set up a treatment plan for you. Your treatment plan will be based on the results of your tests, your physical examination, and your individual needs. Making healthy lifestyle choices is an important part of treatment. It can help to get high blood pressure under control. This may include losing extra weight, eating meals with less fat and salt, no fast food, limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for a woman, and starting a regular exercise program approved by your healthcare provider. If you are a smoker, your healthcare provider will advise you to stop. Smoking increases your risk of complications such as heart attacks or strokes. Medication may also be needed to get your blood pressure under control. There are many effective medications for high blood pressure. Sometimes a combination of different medications may be needed. These medications should be taken as instructed, even if you are feeling fine. This is because high blood pressure is damaging even when it causes no symptoms.
What else should I do to help control my blood pressure?
You can help yourself by doing the following:
- Attend regular medical checkups
- Take all your medications as instructed, even if you are feeling fine
- Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations about diet and exercise
- Stop smoking, if you are a smoker
- Avoid drinking more than one ounce of alcohol a day
- Get your whole family involved in your care plan
Don’t hesitate to talk to your physician if you have any questions or problems. If you cooperate with your treatment plan, you can keep your blood pressure under control and help to prevent serious complications.
What are the other causes of chronic kidney disease in adults?
Besides diabetes and high blood pressure there are many other reasons for loss of kidney function, including:
- Problems in the urinary tract that block the normal flow of urine
- Inherited diseases such as polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which causes fluid-filled pouches to form in the kidneys and enlarge over time
- Conditions that damage the filtering units of the kidneys (the glomeruli) such as glomerulonephritis or interstitial fibrosis of the kidney
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a rare disease that affects both the blood and blood vessels. Kidney failure may occur as a result of damage to small blood vessels in the kidneys.
How are high blood pressure and CKD related?
High blood pressure is a leading cause of CKD in adults and contributes to the worsening of CKD in children. High blood pressure can also be a complication of kidney disease. The kidneys play a key role in keeping blood pressure in a healthy range. If your kidneys are damaged, they are less able to regulate blood pressure. As a result, blood pressure increases and CKD gets worse. Making sure your treatment plan is followed carefully and your blood pressure is under control can help keep kidney disease from getting worse and prevent heart disease.