How Does Kidney Disease Affect the Heart?

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Particular imbalances in the body

If you have kidney disease, it can lead to certain imbalances in your body which some can affect the heart or may contribute to cause heart disease – particularly true if these imbalances are ignored, poorly controlled, or left untreated.

Kidney problem can cause a number of imbalances in the body. These include:


Fluid retention

Kidneys are important to help regulate the amount of water in the body. For example, they are likely to retain more water when you have dehydration. And if there is excess water in the body, they remove it with urine.

Kidney failure can cause abnormal fluid retention. As a result, you have swelling in some parts of the body (such as legs and arms). You may also have more fluids in the lungs and hearts, making them work harder.

The imbalance of potassium

Potassium has a number of different functions to keep your heart functioning well. The most important thing, it is required to help control the electrical balance of the heart. It does have a role in every beat of your heart!

Both too high and too low potassium in the body have bad effect on your heart. Too high potassium can lead to abnormal heartbeat irregularities or even this also can be life-threatening. On the other hand, too low potassium causes muscle weakness that may lead to heart rhythm disturbances.

And when the kidney doesn’t work well, the body cannot regulate the balance of potassium as well. Sometime it can cause a sudden increase in potassium levels.


The imbalance of salt (sodium)

Together with adrenal glands, two kidneys regulate the balance of sodium in the body. When there is high or low sodium in the bloodstream, adrenal glands make aldosterone – a hormone that tells the kidneys how much sodium to remove or to retain in order to keep it in balance!

This balancing function is impaired when you have kidney problem. And we know well that the balance of sodium is important to maintain blood pressure and heart function.

What else?

Poor kidney function may also lead to the imbalances of the following substances:

  1. High phosphorus.
  2. Low calcium.
  3. Bicarbonate deficiency. Most of carbon dioxide in the body is converted into bicarbonate to help maintain the normal pH of blood. The kidneys and lungs are responsible to maintain the balance of bicarbonate.
High blood pressure

Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. And kidney disease can contribute to cause high blood pressure.

Hypertension in people with kidney disease can occur with a number of different reasons, these include:

  1. Due to excess fluid retention in the body.
  2. Excess sodium in the body.
  3. Kidney disease is a cause and a consequence of hypertension. This means, hypertension in people with kidney disease is vicious cycle. Kidneys produce an enzyme called rennin to help control blood pressure. Kidney damage may lead to excess production of rennin that can worsen hypertension.
High blood cholesterol

It is another common risk factor of heart disease. Some kidney conditions are also linked to high blood cholesterol. For instances, high cholesterol is quite common in people with nephrotic syndrome and after transplantation.

Furthermore, kidney disease can put you at greater chance of having problems with narrowing blood vessels. This means there is greater chance for your dietary cholesterol and saturated fats to cause atherosclerosis, which is a serious threat for your heart function.


The body’s cells require adequate oxygen to keep functioning well. Hemoglobin, a protein, is responsible to bind oxygen. Without hemoglobin, oxygen cannot be distributed around the body as well.

Hemoglobin can be found in red blood cells. If your hemoglobin or red blood cells in the blood is lower than normal, this is what we call ‘anemia’. In some cases of anemia, the amount of red blood cells looks normal but they may simply contain too low hemoglobin.

Anemia can be severe enough to make your heart work harder. If there is too low oxygen in the body’s cells and tissues, your heart will pump faster and harder to compensate this deficiency.

The kidneys make erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates bone marrow to make red blood cells. Kidney disease may impair the production of this hormone, and you’re likely to have red blood cells deficiency.

Kidney disease and heart disease share some same risk factors

As mentioned earlier, both diseases have some same risk factors. In other words, many times patients with kidney disease already have other factors that can worsen the effect of the disease on their heart.

For instance, many patients also have diabetes (high blood sugar) and hypertension (high blood pressure), two leading causes of kidney damage. And even though if you have healthy kidneys, diabetes or/and hypertension is already strong enough to put you at high risk of heart disease.

It seems that kidney disease can affect the heart in several ways. But it is manageable condition. Ask your doctor for more advice to cope with it!

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