Harlem Word: Dr. Thomas Nickolas talks about how your kidneys regulate your blood pressure

Dr. Thomas Nickolas, MD, MS is a nephrologist (a kidney disease doctor) at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.  He talks to about what blood pressure is, things you can do to keep your blood pressure down and the role your kidneys play in regulating your blood pressure.

Q: What is blood pressure?

A: Blood pressure refers to the amount of blood in a person's blood vessels and the amount of pressure that the heart needs to use when it pumps in order to get blood circulating around the body.

Q: What is high blood pressure?

A: It is when the heart has to work harder to get the blood pumping throughout the body and when the organs like the brain or the kidney or the heart feel the extra pressure that's being applied. It can damage blood vessels and the organs themselves.

Q: How can a person keep their blood pressure down?

A: One big way to do this is to eat less salt. You can also lose weight, begin an exercise program, or take medications to help lower the blood pressure if you can't change your eating or exercising habits.  Any combination of these things will help lower a person's blood pressure.

Q: Can you explain the how a person's kidneys affect their blood pressure?

A: The amount of salt in our bodies is one of the ways that our blood pressure is regulated. Whenever we eat any salt, our kidneys are responsible for deciding how much of it we need to control our blood pressure and then fix the amount of salt that we have in the body. Any salt that we don't need, the kidneys filter out.

When the kidneys stop working and they aren't able to filter as well as they should, the salt balance begins to become abnormal. If the kidneys can't filter the salt in our bodies, then it stays in our bodies and we have too much of it. The more salt in our bodies, the higher our blood pressure is.

Q: Could high blood pressure also be a sign that your kidneys are failing?

A: Yes. Patients who have high blood pressure are at a higher risk of having their kidneys fail, just like they're at a higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.

Read more from Dr. Nickolas by clicking the links below:

To listen to our interview with Dr. Nickolas, click here.

Harlem Word is a series of interviews with Northern Manhattan health experts, written by HHPC and reviewed by our Health Advisory Board.

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