How Is Chronic Kidney Disease Treated to Prevent Heart Complications?

For starters, your blood pressure will play a big role.

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If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, your treatment won’t just aim to help and protect the kidneys. Kidney damage can actually have devastating effects on your cardiovascular system. Consequently, treating kidney disease to prevent heart problems is a major component of the treatment approach.

Complications of Chronic Kidney Disease

Your kidneys do several things for your heart. To name a few, they filter out waste from the blood, help control blood pressure, and help produce red blood cells. When the kidneys are damaged, these functions can be impaired, and the heart may have to work harder. Learn more about the link between kidney and heart problems here.

“Chronic kidney disease can cause complications both in the kidneys, as well as other organs in the body,” says Lawrence Phillips, MD, cardiologist at NYU Langone Health. “For the heart, it increases your risk of developing heart complications, including heart failure or dysfunction.”

Additionally, if the kidneys are unable to filter out all the waste (which forms urine) from the blood, it can develop a buildup of toxins in the blood. As it progresses, someone may lose their ability to produce urine, and they require dialysis. This is called kidney failure.

Treatment to Prevent Complications

“One class of medications that becomes very important in treating both kidney disease with heart failure is diuretics. These are medications that help decrease the volume [of fluid] within the body,” says Dr. Phillips. “If people are swelling, for example, or have shortness of breath from fluid backup, we could decrease the volume in the blood vessels [and body] by giving diuretics.”

Another way to lower your risk of heart complications is managing your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. These increase the risk of both kidney complications and heart complications. If necessary, your doctor may recommend medicines that can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or blood sugar.

Additionally, lifestyle factors play an important role in modifying your risk. A healthy diet—especially one low in sodium—can be beneficial for treating kidney and heart problems and preventing complications. Here are other heart-healthy lifestyle factors that can help.

It’s important to remember that heart problems stem from a “compilation of multiple risk factors,” says Dr. Phillips. “If somebody has one risk factor like kidney disease, we want to be extra aggressive on their other [risk factors], and that will decrease their risk overall of developing heart failure or heart disease.”