High Blood Pressure and Kidneys

The Risks of Kidney Failure With High Blood Pressure

All racial groups have some risk of developing kidney failure from high blood pressure. African Americans, however, are more likely than Caucasians to have high blood pressure and to develop kidney problems from it -- even when their blood pressure is only mildly elevated. In fact, African Americans are six times more likely than Caucasians to develop hypertension-related kidney failure.
People with diabetes also have a substantially increased risk of developing kidney failure. People who are at risk, both because of their race and because of diabetes, should begin early management of high blood pressure.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to have a health professional measure it with a blood pressure reading. The result is expressed as two numbers. The top number, which is called the systolic pressure, represents the pressure when your heart is beating. The bottom number, which is called the diastolic pressure, shows the pressure when your heart is resting between beats.
Generally, your blood pressure is considered normal if it stays below 120/80 (expressed as "120 over 80"), although extremely low blood pressure can also be a health concern.
People with a systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139 or a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89 have a condition called prehypertension and should adopt health-promoting lifestyle changes to prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels. If your systolic blood pressure is consistently 140 or higher, or your diastolic pressure is 90 or higher, you have high blood pressure and should talk with your doctor about the best ways to lower it.
Kidney damage, like hypertension, can be unnoticeable and detected only through medical tests. Blood tests will show whether your kidneys are removing wastes efficiently. Your doctor should order tests to measure your serum creatinine level. Having too much creatinine in your blood is a sign that you have kidney damage. The doctor should use the serum creatinine level to estimate the main kidney function called glomerular filtration rate, or GFR.
Another sign is proteinuria, or protein in your urine. Proteinuria has also been shown to be associated with heart disease and damaged blood vessels.
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