Elevated blood pressure, referred to as hypertension, has long been recognized as a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. The association between severely elevated blood pressure and poor kidney function has also been long appreciated. It has not been proven whether or not the consequences of blood pressure elevation that is not severe could result in kidney failure.
When the kidney fails to function, the poisons of body metabolism are not cleared, and, therefore, build up in the blood stream. The accumulation of these chemicals is eventually fatal unless the patient receives dialysis or kidney transplantation.
In a study published in the January, 4, 1996 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Michael J. Klag, M.D., M.P.H. and associates described their data from studying 332,544 men over a 16 year period from 1974 through 1990. A strong relationship was noted between blood pressure elevation and ultimate kidney failure. The relationship held for both high- normal (systolic less than 140 mmHg with diastolic from 85 and 89 mmHg, or systolic from 130 to 139 mmHg with diastolic less than 90 mmHg) and high (systolic above 140 mmHg or diastolic above 90 mmHg) blood pressure.
The personal and societal economic impact of kidney failure is substantial. As emphasized by the authors of the study, prevention of kidney failure must focus on risk factors that can be modified. These now include both high-normal and high blood pressure.
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