Antihypertensive drugs, dietary salt, and renal protection: how low should you go and with which therapy?

Am J Kidney Dis. 1998 Jul;32(1):1-22. doi: 10.1053/ajkd.1998.v32.pm9669419.


Although it is clear that hypertension accelerates the rate of progression of most forms of chronic renal disease, many unanswered questions remain concerning how to optimally preserve kidney function in patients with hypertension and renal insufficiency. The mechanisms by which hypertension accelerates progression of renal disease have been extensively studied in experimental models. Glomerular capillary hypertension, consequent to an increase in systemic blood pressure combined with a reduction in preglomerular resistance and/or an increase in postglomerular resistance, results in increased hydraulic stress to the glomerular capillary wall. This and other mechanisms result in the release of growth-promoting cytokines and soluble mediators of fibrosis that stimulate cellular proliferation and matrix accumulation, ultimately leading to glomerular sclerosis and interstitial fibrosis. Almost without exception, studies in animals demonstrate that blood pressure reduction reduces the rate of progression of experimental renal disease. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and, possibly, calcium antagonists may have a therapeutic advantage compared with other antihypertensive drugs in preventing kidney damage. This has been linked to both blood pressure-dependent and -independent actions. However, most experimental studies have failed to reduce blood pressure to a level sufficient to establish the clinical relevance of potential blood pressure-independent effects. Experimental studies comparing various types of antihypertensive drugs in which a mean arterial pressure (MAP) of approximately 92 mm Hg is achieved are necessary to determine whether clinically important differences in the effects of these drugs on the rate of progression of renal disease exist. Clinical experience with high blood pressure and kidney disease in humans suggests that the risk of developing hypertension-associated renal disease is a continuous variable across the entire range of systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Logically, optimal protection of kidney function may therefore be a continuous function of declining systemic blood pressure. Consistent with this view, recent clinical trials suggest that reducing MAP to 92 mm Hg, corresponding to a blood pressure reading of 125/75 mm Hg, provides more optimal stabilization of renal function in patients with nondiabetic proteinuric kidney disease (>1 g/d) compared with more conventional therapy with a blood pressure goal of 140/90 mm Hg (MAP 107 mm Hg). Clinical trials in patients with diabetes mellitus and renal insufficiency also demonstrate the benefits of reducing blood pressure to approximately 95 mm Hg MAP. Dietary salt consumption may be another important variable affecting the rate of progression of renal disease due to both direct, salt-dependent effects on renal growth and the action of decreased salt intake to augment the antihypertensive and antiproteinuric properties of many drugs. The precise role of alterations in dietary salt consumption on progression of renal disease directly as well as on the effectiveness of various antihypertensive drugs has yet to be examined in clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / therapy
  • Diet, Sodium-Restricted*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / complications
  • Hypertension* / therapy
  • Renal Insufficiency* / complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / administration & dosage*


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary