What is hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the force of the blood pushing against your artery walls is consistently too high. Your blood pressure is determined by two factors: the amount of blood your heart is pumping and the amount of resistance to blood flow within your arteries. The narrower your arteries and the more blood your heart is pumping, the higher your blood pressure.

Hypertension often develops over many years, but left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems including heart disease and kidney disease.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” because people who have it generally won’t experience any noticeable symptoms. That’s why it is so important to check your blood pressure regularly. In most cases, that is the only way to tell that you have hypertension.

How does hypertension affect my kidneys?

Hypertension is the second-leading cause of kidney failure. That’s because your kidney function is closely tied to the circulatory system. Your kidneys use a lot of blood vessels to perform their jobs of filtering waste and extra fluids from your blood. When those blood vessels get damaged, the nephrons that filter your blood don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need to function well. Over time, hypertension can cause the arteries around the kidneys to narrow, harden, or weaken, preventing them from delivering blood to the kidneys. The result is kidney failure.

How is hypertension treated?

Hypertension is generally treated with lifestyle changes and medications. Recommended lifestyle changes can include:

  • Reducing your salt intake and eating a more heart-healthy diet overall
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight if you are overweight
  • Limiting your alcohol intake

When lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may recommend medications to help lower your blood pressure. Possible medications include diuretics — including thiazides, chlorthalidone, and indapamide — beta-blockers and alpha-blockers, central agonists, calcium-channel blockers, vasodilators, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, or peripheral adrenergic inhibitors.

How can I tell if I’m at risk for high blood pressure?

There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk for high blood pressure. If you want to determine if you are at risk for developing hypertension, some factors to consider are:

  • Age and Gender: The risk of hypertension increases as you age. High blood pressure is also more common in men up to age 64. Women are more likely to develop hypertension after age 65.
  • Family History: Hypertension tends to run in families.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing high bklood pressure.
  • Physical Inactivity: People who aren’t physically active are at a higher risk for hypertension.

Other factors to keep in mind are drinking too much alcohol, a high-sodium diet, insufficient potassium, and high stress levels.

Keep your blood pressure under control.

If you are concerned about your blood pressure, speak to your doctor about how you can avoid or treat hypertension. Being proactive and knowing your risk factors can help lower your risks for serious blood pressure-related medical issues — including kidney failure.

If you believe you may have hypertension and are concerned about how that is affecting your kidneys, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment at Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group, where providing top-quality, compassionate care is our #1 priority. We know that understanding your condition and picking the right treatment option can be challenging. That’s why our doctors work closely with each patient to help them understand their care options so they can feel comfortable and confident every step of the way.