Harvard Heart Letter

Getting to the heart of kidney disease

Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar will help both your heart and your kidneys.

On the surface, it's difficult to see how coronary artery disease and kidney damage might be related. But on the cellular level, the two conditions often go hand in hand. A closer look reveals the key. Underlying both conditions are two powerful risk factors: high blood pressure and diabetes, each of which damages the heart and kidneys independently.

How the kidneys work

Blood flows into your kidneys through the renal arteries, which branch into successively smaller blood vessels, finally ending in small clusters of capillaries known as glomeruli. Each cluster, or glomerulus, is part of a nephron—a tube-like structure that filters and purifies the blood. Each kidney has more than a million nephrons.

Illustration: Scott Leighton

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