Blood pressure and your kidneys: key facts to know


Our kidneys play a critical role in our health and have many important functions including controlling the volume of blood in our circulatory system - which in turn means that there is a very close relationship between the health of our kidneys and our blood pressure control.

If your blood pressure is raised, it can stop your kidneys functioning at optimum level, and can even shut them down altogether. Indeed, high blood pressure is the second most common cause of kidney failure, after diabetes. If you were to develop kidney disease first, you are also then likely to develop high blood pressure later on. It is fair to say then that there can be something of a vicious circle between the two conditions.

How does high blood pressure damage the kidneys?

The kidneys contain a particularly fine network of tiny blood vessels and over a period of time high blood pressure can cause these to harden, narrow and become weaker. This can eventually affect kidney function including the regulations of salt, fluids and hormones in your body - which can in turn increase your blood pressure further.

Keeping your blood pressure healthy

Although there are medications available to help control blood pressure, it can normally be controlled very effectively by making some positive lifestyle changes.

If you have high blood pressure, you may want to consider some of the following lifestyle strategies to bring it back under control:

Take steps to ensure you keep a healthy body weight

A high BMI and a high waist girth can both significantly increase your blood pressure. Stay trim by keeping physically active and maintaining a healthy diet.

Keep active

Regular exercise develops the efficiency of the heart and circulation which helps to control your blood pressure both at rest and during physical activity. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a day is all it should take but if you are not used to exercise make sure you take things steady until you are more comfortable.

If your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90 then you should check in first with your doctor for further advice and if your blood pressure is above 160/100 then you should certainly keep the intensity of any physical activities at a comfortable level until you've seen your doctor for further assessment and advice.

If you smoke - stop

Nicotine is a central nervous stimulant so blood pressure levels climb immediately as soon as you take your first puff. The tobacco chemicals in cigarette smoke also damage your artery walls, making you more prone to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure in the future.

Limit the amount of salt you eat

Sodium (contained in salt) can encourage your blood circulation to retain fluid, which can in turn increase your blood pressure. There is plenty of sodium in much of the food we buy so try to resist the temptation to add extra salt at the dinner table - your 'salt taste' will soon adapt.

Increase the amount of potassium in your diet

This can help to offset the negative effects of excess sodium. A banana a day will provide a great potassium boost as well as a steady delivery of energy, fibre, vitamins and other minerals.

Keep alcohol in check

Excessive drinking can really push your blood pressure up so make sure you stay within healthy limits and avoid binge-drinking.

Positively manage your stresses

Blood pressure can race up when you're feeling under pressure so make sure you do what you can to manage your stresses by keeping physically active, getting sufficient sleep and relaxation, enjoying supportive relationships and managing your commitments to suit you, your availability and your capabilities.