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Why Kidney Health Starts with Heart Health

These four tests can help your doctor spot any problems early

kidney health

Controlling your blood pressure with healthy lifestyle steps and medication (if prescribed by your doctor) can help protect your kidneys. It’s also important to undergo tests that monitor kidney health on a regular basis, either annually or as recommended by your doctor.

Your doctor will also likely order blood and urine tests that check kidney health. These tests can also spot side effects of blood pressure medications that may affect your kidneys or heart. These types of tests can help your doctor choose the best blood pressure drugs for you. For example, if you have protein in your urine (a sign of kidney problems), medications called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) may be the best choice for protecting your kidneys, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Here is a list of common kidney tests your doctor might recommend: 

Creatinine or GFR: Short for glomerular filtration rate, this blood test shows how well your kidneys are filtering. It checks for a protein called creatinine, a waste product from the normal breakdown of muscle. If your GFR is too low, your kidneys may not be filtering your blood effectively.

A urine test for albumin: This test checks for a protein called albumin that can show up in your urine if your kidneys aren’t functioning optimally.  Higher urine protein levels may mean you’re at more risk for worsening kidney disease.

Urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio: Your doctor or health-care provider may also look at the ratio between albumin and creatinine in your urine. A ratio higher than 30 mg/g may be a sign of kidney disease.

Serum K: Serum K refers to the amount of potassium in your blood. “K” is the scientific symbol for potassium. A serum K test may be part of your routine blood-pressure care. High potassium levels can be a sign that your kidneys aren’t filtering this mineral efficiently. But medications you take for your blood pressure may also contribute to high or low levels. For example, thiazide diuretics can lead to low potassium levels, and ACE inhibitors and other medications may raise your potassium levels.

Although there are multiple methods to check for kidney problems if you have high blood pressure, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor (and review what’s covered under your plan) before opting for a specific one.