Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

How High Blood Pressure Causes Kidney Damage

a woman getting her blood pressure checked

High blood pressure doesn’t just increase your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. It can also damage your kidneys.

This limits their ability to filter waste and toxins, as well as balance the amount of fluids, hormones, sodium, and other minerals in your blood. Your heart and kidneys work together, which is why your blood pressure can affect both.

How High Blood Pressure Can Cause Kidney Damage

Your heart, the key organ of the circulatory system, constantly pumps blood through your blood vessels. Good blood flow is essential for normal kidney function. Even minor blood flow problems can affect function and increase your risk of serious kidney damage.

Although it takes a certain amount of force to push blood through the blood vessels, the pressure inside the vessels sometimes becomes too high. High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels that lead to the kidneys, causing them to stiffen or narrow.

As a result, less blood reaches your kidneys, making it difficult for the organs to function properly. Tiny blood vessels inside the kidneys that filter blood may also be damaged.

Kidney Damage Symptoms

If your kidneys can’t balance fluids or remove waste and toxins efficiently, you may experience:

Health issues can also occur if your mineral levels are too high or too low. Irregular heartbeats may be a problem if your potassium level rises. Calcium depletion can lead to broken bones.

Kidney damage may make it even harder to regulate your blood pressure. Blood pressure tends to increase when fluids build up and your kidneys struggle to regulate hormones that control pressure. If the damage is severe, your kidneys may eventually begin to fail.

Then you'll need dialysis, a treatment that removes waste and extra fluids from your blood, or a kidney transplant.

6 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Lowering your blood pressure will help you avoid kidney damage and slow the progression of kidney disease if you already have it. These steps can help protect your kidneys.

Recent Kidney Disease Diagnosis?

UVA offers support, dialysis, and transplant clinics throughout the region.

Improve Your Diet

Cut out sugary snacks, junk food, high-sodium foods, and foods that contain saturated fats. Make sure your diet includes a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, and lean meats.

Lose Weight

Excess weight stresses your heart and may raise your blood pressure. Losing even a few pounds may help lower your pressure.

Exercise More

Exercise is an excellent, inexpensive way to keep your blood pressure under control. The American Heart Association® recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Or try 75 minutes of vigorous activity for adults, in addition to two muscle-strengthening sessions per week.


Stress also plays a role in high blood pressure. Any activity that reduces stress, whether it’s exercise, yoga, or reading a good book, will help you protect your heart and kidneys.

Stop Smoking

Smoking may narrow your blood vessels, increasing your blood pressure. If you’ve been thinking about giving up smoking, now’s the perfect time to stop.

See Your Doctor

High blood pressure doesn’t usually cause symptoms at first, despite the damage it does to your blood vessels. Blood pressure screenings at your doctor’s office can detect even slight changes in your blood pressure.

Making lifestyle changes may help lower elevated blood pressure, and if that’s not enough, your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medication.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week