Heart Disease and Chronic Kidney Disease


If you have chronic kidney disease, it is important for you to learn all you can about the condition and its complications.  By acting early, you can prevent some of the long-term complications of chronic kidney disease such as cardiovascular disease (heart disease).  According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.  Chronic kidney disease affects more than your kidneys.  By managing your kidney disease and its causes you can reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. 


What is cardiovascular disease?


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes all diseases and conditions of the heart and blood vessels, such as arteries and veins.  The most common diseases and conditions include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, blockages of blood vessels and vascular kidney disease. 


What are the risk factors for cardiovascular disease? 


Some of the risk factors are linked to lifestyle choices like diet and exercise.  Other risk factors are common to everyone, including:

  • Age-your risk increases with age.  Women are more at risk after menopause as their cholesterol levels increase.
  • Gender-men are more at risk
  • Family history of CVD can put you at increased risk
  • Hereditary factors such as race such as African Americans, Hispanics and Asians
  • Depression-may also be a risk factor
  • Chronic health conditions such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. 


People with chronic kidney disease are 10-20 times more likely to have a heart attack.  Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for people on dialysis and those who have a transplanted kidney.  People at every stage of chronic kidney disease are at more risk of cardiovascular disease, although those in the later stages have the highest risk.




Why does kidney disease increase your risk?


The kidneys have many functions that play an important role in maintaining the bodies chemical balances.  What are these functions and why are they important in relation to cardiovascular disease? 


  • Hormones such as renin and angiotensin control how well blood vessels expand and contract.  Kidneys play an important role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.  If your kidneys are not working properly, blood pressure will rise.  High blood pressure causes blood vessel walls to thicken and narrow.  High blood pressure also damages the small blood vessels in your kidneys that help with filtration of toxin.  Severe high blood pressure can weaken the heart muscle, enlarge the heart and cause the kidneys to fail. 


  • Kidneys control acid levels, electrolyte and fluid balance.  Electrolytes are important as they keep you healthy.   Too much or too little of any of these electrolytes can make a person sick.  For instance, if you have too much sodium your body retains water and repeated fluid overload can damage your heart.  Too much or too little potassium in your body may cause an abnormal heart beat.



  • Chronic kidney disease often causes anemia (lack of red blood cells).  If anemia goes untreated, it can lead to other health conditions.  For example, if the number of red blood cells you have drops, your heart needs to work harder to maintain oxygen levels.  If the heart works too hard, the heart muscle becomes larger and can lead to heart failure.


How can you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease?


The best way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is to control and maintain a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels and good control of blood sugar if you are diabetic.  If you have chronic kidney disease, this usually means using medication as well as having a healthy lifestyle.  Identifying chronic kidney disease early and slowing its progression as well as reducing other risk factors is important in reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. 





Resources:       www.kidney.org.au