A to Z Health Guide

The Heart and Kidney Connection

Your heart and kidneys are two important organs in your body. They work together to keep you healthy.  When one is affected, the other is too.  In other words, your heart can affect the health of your kidneys, and your kidneys can affect the health of your heart. 

What does the heart do?

The heart is a muscle that pumps blood filled with oxygen to all parts of your body. This job keeps every cell, organ, and system alive within your body. To move blood to each part of your body, your heart relies on your blood vessels. Together, the heart, blood and blood vessels make up a system called “the cardiovascular system.”  Think of it as a delivery system. The delivery system moves blood from the heart carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout your body and also picks up waste products so that your body can get rid of them.

What do the kidneys do?

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs and are usually about the size of your fist. They are located a little below your rib cage and to the left and right of your spine. Your kidneys are powerful chemical factories and have the following jobs:

  • Clean your blood of waste products and extra water
  • Help control blood pressure
  • Keep bones healthy and strong
  • Help make red blood cells
  • Keep the balance of minerals in your blood (like sodium, phosphorous, and potassium)

How do the kidneys and heart work together?

The heart pumps blood filled with oxygen through all parts of your body, including the kidneys.  The kidneys clean the blood, removing waste products and extra water.  Without the kidneys, your blood would have too much waste and water. Without the heart, your kidneys would not have the oxygen filled blood needed to do its many important jobs. Without the help of your kidneys, the heart would be working too hard or would not function at all.  A healthy functioning cardiovascular system is important for your kidneys to their job.

What is the connection between heart disease and kidney disease?

Researchers have been working to understand the clear relationship between kidney disease and heart disease.  When your heart or kidneys cannot function normally, it can lead to cardiovascular disease (heart disease) or kidney disease. It is important to know that having kidney disease can directly affect your chances of developing heart disease. Having heart disease can directly affect your chances of developing kidney disease. In fact, kidney disease and heart disease share many of the same risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.  

How can I keep my heart and kidneys healthy?

These tips can help keep your kidney and heart health on track. You should always speak with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet and lifestyle.

  • Regular physical activity
  • Lose weight, if you need to
  • Eat less fat
  • Keep your blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fats under control
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce stress

A good way to keep the heart and kidney connection in mind is to remember, what is good for your kidneys is good for your heart. Keeping up the health of your heart is good for the health of your kidneys.

What if I already have kidney disease?

People with kidney disease or kidney failure are at risk for heart disease. Working with your healthcare provider and dietitian will help you find a lifestyle that can lower your chances of getting heart disease —or help keep heart disease from getting worse. If you are on dialysis, you can read more about tips on heart health and dialysis here.

 

 

Also on the A to Z Guide:

Cholesterol and Kidney Disease

Diabetes

Exercise

Heart Health: Ten Tips to Keep Your Heart Healthy on Dialysis

High Blood Pressure

Take Steps to Keep Your Heart Healthy on Dialysis

 

Date Reviewed: 
May 17, 2016

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.