High blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage blood vessels and impair kidney function. Medications to lower blood pressure can help protect the kidneys.

High blood pressure can damage blood vessels throughout the body, including in the kidneys, where it can impair kidney function.

Alongside certain lifestyle adjustments, taking medications to lower high blood pressure can help prevent or slow down kidney damage.

This article looks at the link between high blood pressure and kidney disease. It also explains how treatments for lowering high blood pressure can protect the kidneys.

High blood pressure causes a narrowing of blood vessels, which can damage and weaken them over time. This affects blood vessels throughout the body, including in the kidneys.

Damage to blood vessels in the kidneys can impair kidney function, making the kidneys less able to carry out their vital function of removing waste and extra fluid from the body via the urine.

This effect can lead to a negative cycle in which extra fluid building up in the blood vessels increases blood pressure further.

Without treatment, high blood pressure may severely damage the kidneys and lead to kidney failure.

Learn more about the link between high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Certain medications can help lower blood pressure and slow down kidney damage. Medications that can treat high blood pressure include:

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

ACE inhibitors work by reducing how much angiotensin the body produces. Angiotensin is a chemical that narrows the arteries throughout the body, particularly in the kidneys.

Less angiotensin in the body means that blood vessels can widen, lowering blood pressure.

Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)

ARBs prevent angiotensin from joining onto a receptor and narrowing blood vessels. By blocking angiotensin receptors, ARBs help keep blood vessels open, lowering blood pressure.

Other medications to help lower blood pressure and protect the kidneys include:

  • Diuretics: These medications help remove excess fluid and salt from the body.
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics: Potassium-sparing diuretics help the body remove excess fluids without losing too much potassium.
  • Beta-blockers: Beta-blockers reduce how hard the heart has to work by decreasing the heart rate and blood output. In doing so, they lower blood pressure.
  • Alpha-blockers: Alpha-blockers relax the walls of the arteries, making these vessels more open for blood flow.
  • Calcium channel blockers: Calcium can cause a stronger contraction in the walls of the arteries. Calcium channel blockers help relax narrowed blood vessels to keep them open.
  • Central agonists: Central agonists reduce how much blood vessels contract to lower blood pressure.

Lifestyle adjustments can help lower blood pressure and protect the kidneys. Examples of steps that people can take include:

  • Staying physically active: People can aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity, which should increase the heart rate and breathing rate. They can choose from many forms of exercise, including brisk walking, cycling, and jogging.
  • Maintain a moderate weight: For individuals who are overweight or have obesity, reducing body weight by 7–10% in the first year after a high blood pressure diagnosis can help reduce associated health problems.
  • Quit smoking or avoid secondhand smoke: Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the risk of high blood pressure. People who smoke can talk with a healthcare professional about ways to quit.
  • Manage stress: Physical activity, meditation, yoga, and listening to music are all examples of how people can relax and reduce stress. Different practices will be more effective for different people.
  • Follow a nutritious, well-balanced diet: A healthy eating plan, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan, can help lower blood pressure. The DASH diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains but limits red meat, added sugars, and fatty foods.
  • Avoid excess salt: Reducing salt intake is an important part of managing high blood pressure.

Other ways to protect the kidneys include:

High blood pressure does not usually cause symptoms, but, in rare cases, it may cause headaches.

People with known risk factors for high blood pressure can check their blood pressure at home with a blood pressure cuff or ask a doctor to take a reading.

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

People at risk of kidney disease must attend regular checkups to monitor their condition and blood pressure levels. Those with diabetes will need yearly testing.

Risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • diabetes
  • having close family members with kidney failure
  • being African American, Hispanic, or American Indian

Kidney disease does not always cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages, although some people may notice swelling in the lower body, such as the legs, ankles, or feet.

Advanced kidney disease may cause:

Anyone who experiences symptoms of high blood pressure or kidney disease should contact a doctor to find out the underlying cause.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 people with high blood pressure may also have kidney disease.

The best way to prevent or slow down the progression of hypertension-related kidney disease is to lower blood pressure. A combination of lifestyle adjustments and medications can help people do this.

High blood pressure can damage blood vessels, including those in the kidneys. This can impair kidney function and make it more difficult for these organs to remove waste and excess fluid from the body.

In turn, kidney disease can cause or worsen high blood pressure, as poor kidney function can lead to extra fluid buildup in the blood vessels.

Treating high blood pressure is one of the best ways to prevent or reduce kidney damage. People can work with a healthcare professional to put together a treatment plan.

Lifestyle adjustments and medications can help lower blood pressure and protect the kidneys.