With heart disease being the leading cause of death for adults in the U.S., it is imperative that everyone understands the seriousness of this condition. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “About 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.”
And if your already suffer from chronic kidney disease, you are automatically at risk for heart disease. In fact, more CKD patients die from heart disease or related problems than they do from kidney failure.
What is Heart Disease?
There may be some confusion about the term “heart disease” and what it entails. The larger umbrella term is “cardiovascular disease (CVD)” which refers to conditions related to the heart or blood vessels. Heart disease is a subset of CVD, which usually just refers to any condition where the heart cannot properly pump blood throughout the body.
Heart disease significantly increases your chances of a heart attack. The most common form of heart disease is coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease. This is when the arteries that supply oxygen to the heart become partially or fully blocked by plaque buildup caused by cholesterol and other materials.
Once you have been diagnosed with heart disease, you will always have it. There are procedures that can help lessen your symptoms or possibly reduce the risk of a heart attack, but preventing the condition in the first place is always key!
What are the Risk Factors of Heart Disease?
There are some conditions that may contribute to your risk of having heart disease. These include:
- High blood pressure – Hypertension can weaken the heart and arteries. This makes it even easier for the arteries to be blocked by plaque.
- High cholesterol levels – The plaque that builds up in the arteries is created by excessive cholesterol in the body.
- Smoking – Tobacco can contribute to the plaque buildup in the arteries and veins. Nicotine helps raise your blood pressure, and the carbon monoxide lowers the oxygen your blood carries to your heart and other organs. Secondhand smoke can be just as dangerous for nonsmokers as smoking.
- Diabetes – People with diabetes tend to have a higher fat content in the blood. This can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels as well as create blockages.
- Obesity – Being extremely overweight is typically linked to other risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Excessive alcohol consumption – Alcohol elevates your blood pressure and increases your triglycerides, which is a blood lipid similar to cholesterol.
- Sedentary lifestyle – Like obesity, being physically inactive is linked to other contributing factors of heart disease.
How are Heart Disease and Chronic Kidney Disease Related?
For one, both heart disease and CKD share primary causes: hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes.
So, if you have one issue, you are at a greater risk of developing the other.
High Blood Pressure
Chronic kidney disease can further complicate hypertension because your kidneys cannot work properly to filter excess water, salt, and wastes from the blood. Over time, high blood pressure weakens the heart and blood vessels.
In turn, having high blood pressure makes it difficult to get oxygen-rich blood to the kidneys. This accelerates the decline of kidney function for patients with chronic kidney disease. It’s a vicious cycle that can truly compromise your health.
As stated above, high blood pressure is common cause of heart disease. So it’s easy to see why this condition and CKD are closely related.
With diabetes, you often have too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. This overabundance can damage the blood vessels throughout the body, including in your kidneys. Over time, your kidneys will stop functioning properly due to the excess glucose, causing chronic kidney disease to occur.
As mentioned, diabetes is a common cause of heart disease due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries and the damage that results.
Seeing that these two primary causes are shared by both heart disease and CKD, it’s no real wonder how the two are so closely related. It’s possible to solely have one medical condition or the other, but the overlap between the two has become so great, it is essential that you take care of yourself once you have been diagnosed with one of these disease.
If you have a kidney disorder, you definitely want to make sure you are living a heart-healthy lifestyle!
How to Lower your Risk of Heart Disease
Chronic kidney disease patients want to make sure they take extra care of their health to prevent heart disease and other related medical issues. Here’s how you can do this:
- Stop smoking.
- Avoid consuming more than one glass of alcohol each day.
- Eat a healthy renal diet, following your dietary restrictions set forth by your doctor.
- Avoid saturated fats, trans fat, and high cholesterol foods.
- Consume a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables for the healthy vitamins and minerals they provide.
- Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight and help burn off fat and calories.
- Visit the doctor regularly, getting your blood sugar, blood pressure, and lipid levels monitored.
- Learn how to relieve stress and help you relax without turning to food, cigarettes, or alcohol.
Hopefully, this extensive overview of heart disease, and the risks that a CKD patient has in having heart issues, sheds some light on how the two conditions are intertwined. Above all, lead a healthy lifestyle that benefits your heart and kidneys to reduce the risks of any further serious medical problems!
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Also published on Medium.