Why Do Heart and Kidney Diseases Go Together?

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is highly prevalent and underdiagnosed.  Your risk of CKD is higher if you have hypertension or heart disease.  CARP wants you to know that taking charge of your kidney health is taking charge of your overall health.

Kidneys 101
You aren’t alone if you’re not exactly clear on what the kidneys do. Nephrologist Dr. Louise Moist, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Western University calls kidneys “gatekeepers.” These multi-tasking organs regulate fluids and blood pressure, balance minerals and electrolytes, ensure red blood cell production and filter wastes.

How are the heart and kidneys related?
Every minute, about one litre of blood pumped by the heart moves through the body and is filtered by the kidneys, which removes wastes and excess water. Without the heart, your kidneys would not have the oxygen-filled blood to do their work. Without the kidneys, your blood would have toxins in it and your hydration levels wouldn’t be balanced, affecting your heart’s ability to function.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
CKD is the presence of kidney damage, or a decreased level of kidney function, for a period of three months or more.

Often considered a silent disease, CKD may not present with symptoms (such as increased urination, fatigue, swelling, shortness of breath or bruising) until it is at an advanced stage.

Heart disease and Hypertension: Risk for CKD
The causes of CKD are diverse, and include obesity, older age and heart failure, but diabetes and hypertension stand out as they are responsible for more than half of all CKD cases. Dr. Moist explains, “CKD is associated with other chronic diseases because of the shared environment.  They are all connected.  For instance, high blood pressure can worsen the amount of protein leaking from the kidneys, causing further kidney damage and greater difficulty controlling the blood pressure.”

Assessing Kidney Health
It is estimated that approximately 2.5 million Canadians live with the disease, but fewer than half of cases are diagnosed.

But the good news is it’s very easy to check your kidney health. You just need to ask your family doctor for a simple creatinine blood test (for eGFR) to assess kidney function and a urine test (uACR) to assess kidney damage.

Dr. Moist likens the tests to a warning light in your vehicle.  “If, for example, we see protein in the urine, it’s like when a red light goes on in the car.  Even though everything seems to be fine, it’s telling you there is a problem. ”

If there are signs of kidney dysfunction or damage there are steps you can take to protect your health. Dr. Moist notes, “We now have compelling studies showing us the importance of early intervention with lifestyle changes and medications. Recently there has been a revolution in medications that can not only reduce progression of kidney disease but can simultaneously reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and mortality.”

For more information about how to take charge of your kidney health, go to https://www.carp.ca/kidney