Cardiovascular-Kidney Diseases

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and stroke is the third leading cause. Both of these conditions are caused by cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is common in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) regardless of age, stage of kidney disease or if they’ve had a transplant. In addition, underlying conditions that cause renal disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, put people at risk for cardiovascular disease

Complications that develop from chronic kidney disease, as well as the underlying conditions that cause chronic kidney disease, can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. The following are complications that develop from renal disease and can lead to cardiovascular disease:

Anemia: Anemia is when your body does not have enough red blood cells. The kidneys manufacture a hormone called erythropoietin, which tells the bone marrow to make more red blood cells. If your kidneys are damaged, your erythropoietin levels can fall, and your body will not make enough red blood cells.

Several studies have shown that anemia can be related to cardiovascular disease. Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Fewer red blood cells mean less oxygen goes to the body’s tissues and organs. If a body is not getting enough oxygen, the heart is not getting enough oxygen either. Without adequate oxygen to the heart muscles, a person may be susceptible to a heart attack. Anemia can also cause the heart to pump more blood in order to circulate enough oxygen throughout the body. As the heart works harder, the muscle in the left lower chamber of the heart can develop thick walls. This is a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). LVH can increase the chance of heart failure.

High blood pressure: The kidneys make renin, which is an enzyme that helps control blood pressure. When blood pressure is too low, healthy kidneys release renin to stimulate different hormones that increase blood pressure. Damaged kidneys may release too much renin, which can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, congestive heart failure and stroke.

High homocysteine levels: Homocysteine is an amino acid normally found in blood. Healthy kidneys regulate the amount of homocysteine in the blood and remove any excess. But damaged kidneys cannot remove the extra homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to the build up of plaque in the blood vessels, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis (when fatty material deposited along the artery walls gets hard and blocks the blood flow) and coronary artery disease. High levels of homocysteine may also damage the lining of the blood vessels, making a person prone to blood clots which increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Calcium-phosphate levels: Different studies have suggested a link between the calcium and phosphorus levels in patients undergoing dialysis and the hardening of the coronary arteries. Healthy kidneys help keep calcium and phosphorus levels in balance. But damaged kidneys cannot do this. Often, there is too much phosphorus and calcium in the blood. When this happens, there is a risk for coronary artery disease.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease. Here is how each can affect your heart and lead to cardiovascular disease:

Diabetes: Diabetes is a condition where excess sugar remains in the bloodstream. This sugar can damage the blood vessels not only in the kidneys but elsewhere in the body, including the major blood vessels that feed the muscles of the heart.

High blood pressure: Not only is high blood pressure a complication from diabetes, it is also a cause of kidney disease. Too much pressure can weaken the walls of the blood vessels, which can lead to a stroke.

Treating cardiovascular disease in people with kidney disease

Whether your cardiovascular disease is caused by complications of your kidney disease or by the underlying cause of your kidney disease, it's important to be aware of the impact it can have on your overall health. Treating the cause of your cardiovascular disease and keeping other conditions like chronic kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure under control will help you feel better.

Your kidney doctor will monitor the health of your kidneys and check for signs of cardiovascular disease. You will also be monitored for complications like anemia and high blood pressure. Part of your treatment program may include taking certain medications to treat these complications, as well as treating any calcium or phosphorus imbalances in the body. Your doctor will also refer you to a renal dietitian, who will work with you to create a kidney-friendly and heart-friendly diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fats.

If you have diabetes and/or high blood pressure, your kidney doctor will work with your family doctor and renal dietitian to treat both conditions. Your treatment plan may include a combination of medication and diet. Managing your diabetes and blood pressure levels in the early stages of kidney disease will help slow the damage to your kidneys as well as reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Your doctor may also recommend exercise as part of your treatment program. Based on your physical condition, age and other factors, your doctor will suggest activities that are right for you. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend that you stop. Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, and can cause other complications.  

Chronic kidney disease affects more than your kidneys; it can put vital organs such as your heart at risk. Managing your renal disease and the underlying causes of your kidney disease, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.


How can I keep my heart and kidneys healthy?

These tips can help keep your kidney and heart health on track. You should always speak with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet and lifestyle.

  • Regular physical activity
  • Lose weight, if you need to
  • Eat less fat
  • Keep your blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fats under control
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce stress

A good way to keep the heart and kidney connection in mind is to remember, what is good for your kidneys is good for your heart. Keeping up the health of your heart is good for the health of your kidneys.

Nephrology Resources


  1. Centers Watch
  2. Dialysis & Transplantation
  3. Dialysis Facility Compare from Medicare
  4. Hypertension, Dialysis and Clinical Nephrology (HDCN) ASN Education
  5. Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Center at the University of Michigan
  6. Medical Historical Library Internet Resources (SIR) from Cushing/Whitney Medical Library (Yale)
  7. Medicare and Kidney Disease Education from Medicare
  8. National Academies
  9. National Library of Medicine (NLM) (Home Page - MEDLINE Database/PubMed Search)
  10. NLM MEDLINE plus Health Information (Kidney Failure and Dialysis)
  11. Nephron Information Center
  12. Renal Fellow Network
  13. Renal Research Institute (RRI)
  14. RenalWEB
  15. RenalWEB Current Monthly Journals
  • Cardiorenal syndrome
  • Recent Advances in Glomerular Disorders and Hypertension
  • Reno vascular hypertension, Anti hypersensitive therapy
  • Hypertension, CKD and Diabetes
  • Hypophosphatemia, Hyperuricemia, Hyperkalemia
  • Kidney and Vascular Diseases
  • Hypertension
  • Modification of Cardiac Drugs in Renal Disease
  • Diseases Affecting both Organs
  • Effects of Cardiovascular Diseases on the Kidney
  • Anemia and Erythropoietin, Renal Osteodystrophy

Related Conference of Cardiovascular-Kidney Diseases

Cardiovascular-Kidney Diseases Conference Speakers