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Understanding the Relationship Between Heart Failure & Kidney Disease

Your kidneys and heart work together to keep you healthy and feeling your best. When one is impacted, it affects the other. If you are living with heart failure, you may be at risk for developing kidney disease and if living with kidney disease, you may be at risk for heart failure. In addition, when paired with congestive heart failure, the symptoms of chronic kidney disease (CKD) can worsen. To slow the progression of heart failure and kidney disease, it is important to understand the relationship between them and what actions you can take to protect your heart and kidney health.

Is There a Link Between Kidney Failure and Heart Failure?

Since your heart and kidneys rely on one another to keep you healthy, heart failure is often associated with kidney disease. Your heart’s job is to pump blood throughout your body, keeping every cell and organ alive and functioning. As your blood travels through your body, it picks up waste; this is where your kidneys come into play. Your kidneys filter the waste and excess water from your blood, keeping the right balance of healthy minerals.

If your kidneys are damaged, then they aren’t able to filter the waste and excess water from your blood. If your heart is impacted, your kidneys won’t receive the oxygen from your blood that they need to perform certain functions, including:

  • regulating your blood pressure,
  • maintaining strong bones,
  • and producing red blood cells.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

Heart failure does not mean your heart has stopped working; however, it does mean that your heart is not functioning as well as it should. It is also a common condition, with nearly 6 million people in the United States diagnosed with this condition.

Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Sudden and severe shortness of breath
  • Persistent coughing that produces white or pink mucus
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen
  • Fatigue; feeling tired after every day activities
  • Lack of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid weight gain from fluid retention
  • Chest pain
If you are living with heart failure and you have new symptoms or your symptoms get worse, let your doctor know.

What are the symptoms of kidney failure?

Although it’s helpful to know the signs of chronic kidney disease (CKD), you shouldn’t wait until you see symptoms to take action. If you are at risk for CKD, it is recommended that you get screened once a year.

Symptoms of kidney failure include:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in your urine
  • Foamy urine
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Decreased appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal levels of phosphorous, calcium, or vitamin D
  • Decreased appetite

Tips for Managing Kidney Disease and Heart Failure

Heart disease and kidney disease share many of the same risk factors, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Managing your risk factors and taking actions to reduce them can help lower your risk of both heart and kidney disease.

Below are a few lifestyle changes you can make to prevent or slow the progression of heart failure and kidney disease.

  • Avoid smoking – Any amount of smoking can cause damage to your heart and blood vessels. Therefore, not smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. It is also beneficial to avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Exercise regularly – Doing physical activity every day is great for your health. Keep in mind, exercise is any kind of physical activity. Taking a walk once a day can help you stay healthy and active. Choose an activity you enjoy doing, whether it’s yoga, dancing, tennis, gardening, swimming, or another activity, and do your best to do it 3 times a week. You can also talk with your doctor to determine what level of exercise is right for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Eating well and exercising can help you reach a healthy weight and maintain it. This will also help lower your risk of heart failure and kidney disease.
  • Eat a low sodium diet – If you are living with heart failure or CKD, it is important to limit your sodium intake. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins are examples of low sodium foods to choose when preparing meals.
  • Minimize stress – Experiencing stress day after day can have a negative impact on your health. Under stress your heart pumps faster, meaning frequent stress can overwork your heart and increase your blood pressure. Taking steps to manage your stress can help you avoid high blood pressure, a risk factor for both heart and kidney failure.
  • Take your medications – If you are at risk of or are living with heart disease and/or kidney disease, it is important to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor to protect your heart and kidney health. Check with your doctor to determine what medications you should be taking and how frequently.

Adopting the above lifestyle choices will help you protect your kidneys and heart health and feel your best so you can live an active and healthy life. In addition, familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of cardiovascular disease and kidney failure can be beneficial so you can quickly identify if your symptoms have gotten worse and take immediate action to reverse the effects.


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