High Blood Pressure and Chronic Kidney Disease

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure in the US. Severe high blood pressure can harm kidney function over a relatively short period of time. Even mild forms of high blood pressure (HBP) can damage kidneys over several years.

  • Approximately 73 million adults in America—1 in 3—have high blood pressure. About 20% remain unaware of their condition.
  • Only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.
  • HBP and chronic kidney disease (CKD) are closely related. In 2013, high blood pressure led to more than 33,000 new cases of kidney failure, making it the second leading cause of kidney failure behind diabetes.
  • More than 20% of people aged 20 years or older with hypertension have CKD.
  • The top number in a blood pressure measurement is called the systolic pressure. This measures the force of blood against the walls of the arteries when the heart is pumping. The lower number is called the diastolic pressure. This measures the force of the blood when the heart is between beats. Both numbers are important and need to be controlled.
  • High blood pressure, also known as hypertension or the abbreviation “HBP”, is defined as systolic pressure of 140 or higher or diastolic pressure of 90 or higher. However, people who have blood pressures from 120/80 to 139/89 may be at increased risk for developing high blood pressure and should follow healthy lifestyle modifications such as losing excess weight and exercising regularly. HBP should not be diagnosed on the basis of a single reading. Initial elevated readings should be confirmed on at least two follow-up visits. In people with diabetes or chronic kidney disease, blood pressure over 130/80 is considered high.
  • In approximately 90% of cases, no specific cause is identified for HBP. However, certain individuals have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure: older persons, people with a family history of HBP, people who are overweight and certain groups including African Americans.
  • Those with the highest rates of HBP are more likely to be middle aged or older, less educated, overweight or obese, physically inactive and to have diabetes. African Americans have 6 times the rate of high blood pressure complications as the Caucasian population.
  • Elevated blood pressure usually causes no physical symptoms. For this reason, it is important to have regular blood pressure screenings.
  • HBP can affect anyone at any age. Regular high blood pressure checkups should begin in childhood and continue throughout life.

Updated January 2016

Sources of Facts and Statistics:
United States Renal Data System, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute