High blood pressure can lead to kidney disease and even kidney failure. Here's how to get it under control.
- High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the second leading cause of kidney failure in the US.
- Untreated hypertension can cause blood vessels to narrow, decreasing blood flow to the kidneys.
In the months before her death, legendary singer Tina Turner opened up about her uncontrolled high blood pressure that led to a stroke and kidney disease.
The late singer, who died this week at age 83, received a kidney transplant from her husband in 2017. But in a testimonial published before her death, she wrote that she didn't know about the connection between her kidneys and blood pressure until it was too late.
"I can't remember ever getting an explanation about what high blood pressure means or how it affects the body," she said in an article for Show Your Kidneys Love, an international campaign for kidney health.
If left untreated, high blood pressure can have cascading effects throughout the body's circulatory system — including disastrous effects on the kidneys. According to the National Institutes of Health, high blood pressure causes blood vessels to narrow, reducing blood flow to organs such as the kidneys.
Without proper blood flow, the kidneys may not be able to do their job of removing excess fluid and waste from the body — and as that fluid builds up, blood pressure will only increase further. It's a dangerous cycle that can lead to kidney failure, but it's possible to intervene early.
High blood pressure can be treated with medication
Almost half of the US adult population has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. The American Heart Association estimates that more than 122 million people in the US are affected by high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke as well as kidney disease.
High blood pressure can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes, such as following a heart-healthy diet and staying active. If lifestyle changes aren't enough to lower your blood pressure, it is vital to take medication as prescribed.
However, hypertension sufferers might not understand the risks that come with not following a medication regimen. Turner wrote that for a while after she was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 1978, she thought of it as her "normal" and didn't attempt to control it.
"I put myself at great danger by refusing to accept the reality that I required daily medication for the rest of my life," she wrote on Instagram on March 9.
Know the signs of kidney disease
High blood pressure is the second leading cause of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure in the US after diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health.
People with high blood pressure or diabetes should take extra care to get their kidneys checked, as early stage kidney disease doesn't usually have symptoms. But as damage to the kidneys gets worse over time, chronic kidney disease may cause swelling in the arms, legs, and face.
Other possible symptoms of advanced chronic kidney disease include:
- Itchy or dry skin
- More or less of a need to urinate
- Appetite loss
- Muscle cramping
- Chest pain
- Problems sleeping
- Weight loss
- Issues with concentration
Severe kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, which may mean that a patient needs dialysis, or even a kidney transplant like Turner.
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