Blog post

What's kidney love got to do with it? What Tina Turner taught us about kidney disease

The legendary singer, Tina Turner, was known as "The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll," but she was also an outspoken advocate for kidney disease, sharing her story to spread awareness of the importance of kidney health.
Tina Turner record and sleeve

The legendary singer, Tina Turner, recently passed away at the age of 83, dying peacefully at her home in Switzerland. While she is best known as the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll" for her smash hits like "What's Love Got to Do With It?" and "The Best," Tina Turner was also an outspoken advocate for kidney disease, especially later in her life. In fact, one of her last Instagram posts was all about promoting awareness of kidney health. She wrote:

"Today is International World Kidney Day. Why is it important? Because kidneys fail without pain. And that's why I'm telling you today: Show your kidneys love! They deserve it. My kidneys are victims of my not realising that my high blood pressure should have been treated with conventional medicine. I have put myself in great danger by refusing to face the reality that I need daily, lifelong therapy with medication. For far too long I believed that my body was an untouchable and indestructible bastion…"

Tina Turner was diagnosed with hypertension (or high blood pressure) in 1978 and, unfortunately, did not know that this is a risk factor for developing kidney disease. In the story she shared, she said no one explained to her what having high blood pressure meant and she simply thought it was "her normal."

But as we know, high blood pressure is not normal. When you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, it means the force of your blood in your blood vessels is too strong, which can damage your kidneys or other organs (like your heart). In fact, high blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure – when your kidneys no longer function, and you need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. About one in four people with kidney failure developed it because they had high blood pressure.

Tina Turner was one of those people, discovering after she suffered a stroke in 2009 that her kidney function was down to 35% because of her uncontrolled high blood pressure. Like she said in her post for the "Show Your Kidneys Love" campaign, kidney disease is often called a "silent killer" because it frequently has no symptoms until your kidneys have already failed. Unfortunately, she resisted taking medication for her blood pressure and her kidneys ultimately failed after she had a second stroke in 2013.

Fortunately, she received a kidney transplant in 2017 from a living donor: her second husband Erwin Bach. However, she continued to manage side effects of the transplant and her friend, singer Cher confirmed she had started dialysis again at the end of her life.

At the time of her death on May 24, Tina Turner had been battling high blood pressure, kidney disease and intestinal cancer for many years. She passed after fighting these long illnesses.

In sharing her story, Tina Turner said, "I realized that the struggle for healing is always also a struggle for accurate information."

At the American Kidney Fund (AKF), we strive to ensure you have that accurate information to fight kidney disease at all stages – from prevention to management to treatment. Unfortunately, it is a disease that cannot be cured, but it can be managed, and the progression can be slowed or stopped. Here are some AKF resources to learn about:


Meredith Deeley

Meredith Deeley is the communications specialist at the American Kidney Fund.