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Health & Disease Prevention, National Health Observances

Kidney Disease and Your Heart: What’s the Connection?

Your heart health is tied to your kidney health. In fact, having kidney disease puts you at risk for getting heart disease. And having heart disease puts you at risk for kidney disease. Learn how these two diseases are connected and how you can lower your risk for both with a few simple steps.

What Is Kidney Disease?

The kidneys are two organs, each about as big as a fist and shaped like a kidney bean. As the heart pumps blood throughout the body, kidneys clean it, remove waste, help maintain blood pressure, and ensure the blood has the right amounts of certain nutrients and minerals.

Kidney disease means the kidneys are damaged. Experts think that more than 1 in 7 U.S. adults, or about 30 million people, have chronic kidney disease (disease lasting longer than 3 months). Most people with kidney disease don’t know they have it. Often, people with early kidney disease feel fine and do not have any symptoms. The only way to know for sure whether you have kidney disease is to get blood and urine tests.

How Does Kidney Disease Affect the Heart?

Damaged kidneys put extra stress on the heart. The damage prevents the kidneys from cleaning waste and extra fluids from the blood and body. When waste and extra fluid stay in the body, people can have other health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. People with kidney disease are much more likely to die from heart disease than kidney problems.

Who Is at Risk for Kidney Disease?

The risks for kidney disease are similar to the risks for heart disease. People who have diabetes and high blood pressure are at greater risk for kidney disease as well as heart disease:

·         Diabetes is a disease that happens when the body cannot make enough insulin (a hormone made in the pancreas) or cannot use the insulin it has. Insulin helps the body process sugar for energy. Without enough insulin, people with diabetes can have high blood sugar. Over time, having diabetes damages the kidneys and heart. More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes (a condition that can lead to diabetes).

·         High blood pressure puts stress on the heart and kidneys over time and greatly increases the risk for heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so many people do not know they have it. The only way to know is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Certain races and ethnicities also have a higher risk for kidney disease.

·         About 1 in 6 African Americans has kidney disease. African Americans are about three times more likely to develop the most severe stage of kidney disease (kidney failure) than whites are. African Americans also develop high blood pressure and diabetes more often than whites and Hispanics do.

·         Hispanics are about one and a half times more likely to develop kidney failure than non-Hispanics are. Hispanics are also more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites are.

How Can I Lower My Risk for Kidney Disease and Heart Disease?

The good news is that you can prevent and manage kidney disease by making healthy life choices and taking medicines. These simple steps can protect you from kidney disease and heart disease.

·         Manage your blood pressure. Know your blood pressure numbers. Take any blood pressure medicines the way your doctor tells you to. Learn more about managing blood pressure.

·         Make healthy eating choices. Choose foods and drinks low in added sugar and sodium (salt). Sugary foods raise blood sugar, and sodium raises blood pressure. Instead, get plenty of heart-healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Learn more about choosing healthy foods.

·         Do not smoke. Smoking greatly raises your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other problems. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, learn how to quit.

·         Stay physically active. Getting regular physical activity keeps your heart, blood vessels, and kidneys healthy. Physical activity also helps manage weight. Learn more about staying active.