High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure ESRD (end stage renal disease). 

Hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels and filters in the kidney, making removal of waste from the body difficult. Once a person is diagnosed with ESRD, a blood cleansing process (dialysis) or kidney transplant are necessary.

Chronic kidney disease can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Conversely, CVD can lead to kidney disease, so the two diseases are strongly intertwined. According to studies, CVD begins to have an effect on the body as early as the first stage of kidney disease, and most people with ESRD die as a result of cardiovascular complications.

Risks that are often associated with kidney disease also contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • High LDL ("bad") cholesterol
  • Low HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Physical activity
  • Older age 

Most people know about the strong link between a healthy diet and disease prevention. What you eat or don't eat may lower or prevent high blood pressure? Also, weight loss, if you are overweight or obese, is a safe and effective way to lower blood pressure. By changing a few simple dietary habits, including counting calories and watching portion sizes to boost weight loss, you may be able to lower your blood pressure a proven risk for heart disease.  See The Pocket Dietitian™ for more information.

Who Is At Risk for Kidney Disease Due to High Blood Pressure?

Kidney disease caused by high blood pressure affects every group and race. However, certain groups are at higher risk, including:

  • African-Americans
  • Hispanic-Americans
  • Native Americans
  • Natives of Alaska
  • People who have diabetes
  • People with a family history of high blood pressure and kidney disease

Your kidneys filter excess fluid and waste from your blood, a process that depends on healthy blood vessels. High blood pressure can injure both the blood vessels in and leading to your kidneys, causing several types of kidney disease (nephropathy). Having diabetes in addition to high blood pressure can worsen the damage.

  • Kidney Failure: High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of kidney failure. That's because it can damage both the large arteries leading to your kidneys and the tiny blood vessels (glomeruli) within the kidneys. Damage to either makes it so your kidneys can't effectively filter waste from your blood. As a result, dangerous levels of fluid and waste can accumulate. You might ultimately require dialysis or kidney transplantation.
  • Kidney Scarring  (Glomerulosclerosis): Glomerulosclerosis is a type of kidney damage caused by scarring of the glomeruli. The glomeruli are tiny clusters of blood vessels within your kidneys that filter fluid and waste from your blood. Glomerulosclerosis can leave your kidneys unable to filter waste effectively, leading to kidney failure. 
  • Kidney Artery Aneurysm: An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. When it occurs in an artery leading to the kidney, it's known as a kidney (renal) artery aneurysm. One potential cause is atherosclerosis, which weakens and damages the artery wall. Over time, high blood pressure in a weakened artery can cause a section to enlarge and form a bulge, the aneurysm. Aneurysms can rupture and cause life-threatening internal bleeding.