High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Linked to Type 1 Kidney Disease
Chronic Kidney Failure
The kidneys are the body's filtration system. The blood is pushed through smaller and smaller capillaries. Waste and excess fluid is excreted, while some essential nutrients are reabsorbed. The filtration system of the kidneys is made up of many very delicate components. This means that the kidneys are easily damaged. Chronic kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), affects one out of every nine adults in the United States. Furthermore, over the course of the past decade, the incidence of kidney failure has doubled in this country. This is an alarming trend, and it is important to examine the underlying causes of this explosion in ESRD.
High Blood Pressure and Kidney Failure
Several factors can contribute to ESRD. One of the most important however is high blood pressure. High blood pressure causes thirty percent of all cases of kidney failure. Because the capillaries and nephrons (the functional units of the kidney) are so fragile, the increased pressure of the blood moving through them can cause irreversible damage. Over time, these impairments accumulate, and the kidney damage turns to kidney failure. Furthermore, ESRD can cause high blood pressure. When the kidneys can no longer fulfill their function of filtering out excess fluids, all that liquid goes back into the blood. A higher volume of liquid that must be pumped through the circulatory system means that more pressure is required. Thus the condition becomes a vicious cycle: high blood pressure causes damage to the kidneys, kidney damage, in turn, leads to even higher blood pressures, which then causes further kidney damage, etc.
High Cholesterol and Kidney Failure
Recent studies have also linked high cholesterol to kidney failure. Otherwise healthy men with high cholesterol are more than twice as likely as those without to develop ESRD. Furthermore, kidney damage and failure are more severe in men with high cholesterol levels. The causative relationship here is not as well understood as it is with high blood pressure, but it seems that elevated levels of circulating cholesterol can cause glomerulosclerosis (scarring of the kidneys) and structural abnormalities in the tubules of the kidneys.
What Can be Done to Prevent or Treat Kidney Failure?
ESRD is a serious condition. When the kidneys cannot filter out water and waste, it can cause many problems in different body systems. The fluid that is not being removed will cause swelling throughout the body, especially the legs, and build-up of waste can have a toxic effect. If left untreated, kidney failure is fatal. The critical first step in slowing and preventing kidney failure is to control blood pressure. Lower blood pressure means that the kidneys are under less stress, and while the damage cannot be undone; this will stop the damage from progressing and further impeding the function of the kidneys. Finally, changes in diet and exercise improve both high blood pressure and cholesterol. Talk to your physician about what treatment will work best for you.
Photo Credit: Joshua Schwimmer