High blood pressure and the health of your kidneys are closely related. In fact, hypertension is a leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure. That’s because high blood pressure causes damage to both the arteries that go to your kidneys and the minute blood vessels (glomeruli) that make up the filtering system in the kidneys, which makes it difficult for the organs to properly filter toxins from your body. Scarring of the glomeruli can result in glomerulosclerosis, which then leads to kidney failure and the need for either dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Like hypertension, kidney disease can be a bit sneaky, but there are some signs and symptoms of which to be aware. One is the presence of high blood pressure, but others include a change in your urination habits (e.g., it is more difficult to urinate or you are not urinating as much as you used to), fluid retention in your lower legs (e.g., swollen ankles or calves), and the need to urinate more often, especially during the night.
Along with having hypertension, there are other risk factors for kidney disease you should know. Therefore, if you are African American, Hispanic, or Native American and/or if you have diabetes or a family history of high blood pressure and kidney disease, you are at greater risk of developing kidney disease yourself. You and your doctor should discuss being tested for kidney disease, which includes lab tests that measure serum creatinine, protein in the urine, and blood urea nitrogen levels.
You can help prevent kidney damage associated with high blood pressure by keeping your blood pressure under control using the natural approaches discussed throughout this book. If your doctor has prescribed medication, discuss the risks and benefits of the drug and how you might reduce or eliminate your need for the medication.