Tina Turner died on May 24, 2023 at age 83 of kidney failure following many years of severe high blood pressure, a kidney transplant, colon cancer, and several strokes. She was a singer, dancer and actress who rose from depressing poverty and an abusive marriage to become the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, before divorcing him and becoming a very popular solo performer.

At age 49, Turner set the then–Guinness World Record for the largest paying audience (180,000) for a solo performer. She:
• Sold more than 100 million records worldwide
• Received 12 Grammy awards, including eight competitive awards, three Grammy Hall of Fame awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
• Was ranked by Rolling Stone to be among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time
• Got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the St. Louis Walk of Fame
• Was twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Ike Turner in 1991 and as a solo artist in 2021
• Received a Kennedy Center Honors award and Women of the Year award

Painful Childhood
Turner was the youngest of three sisters born into poverty in the unincorporated farming community of Nutbush, Tennessee, where her father was an overseer of farm laborers. During World War II, her parents moved to Knoxville, where her father worked in a defense plant, and she was sent to live with her strict paternal grandparents, who were deacons at the Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church. After the war, the family returned to Nutbush and she sang in the church choir. In her autobiography, she said that her parents never loved her and that her father abused her mother, who left the family. Her father remarried, and Tina and her sisters went to live with their maternal grandmother, where she worked as a house cleaner. When she was 16, she went to live with her mother in St. Louis and worked as a nurse’s aide.

Tina and Ike Turner
In St. Louis, Tina went to nightclubs and one night she had the nerve to asked Ike Turner to let her sing with his band. He never responded, but during an intermission, she grabbed the microphone without permission and started singing. Turner let her continue and ended up asking her to join his band. By age 24, she had recorded successful singles and was a famous singer who appeared on top shows such as the American Bandstand. When she was in her thirties, Ike Turner was so addicted to cocaine that it affected his performances. In 1976, when she was 38, the couple had such a brutal fight that she fled from him with only 36 cents and a gasoline credit card. They were divorced soon afterwards.  After their separation, Ike and Tina were riddled with lawsuits over their failed concert appearances. She paid off her debts with proceeds from extended tours around the world and she became a sensation on her own. Ike Turner died of a drug overdose in 2007.

A Loving Relationship and a Kidney Transplant
At age 39, Tina had been diagnosed with severe high blood pressure and rather than taking conventional medicines, she tried worthless popular non-prescription approaches. In 1986, when Tina was 47, she met 31-year old Erwin Bach, a German music executive who worked for her European record label. They lived together for 27 years and married in 2013. At age 69, three weeks after her wedding, she had a stroke that left her paralyzed and she had to learn to walk again. During the treatment for the stroke, she was found to have severe high systolic blood pressure, over 200 mm/Hg (it should be under 120), and she learned for the first time that she was in kidney failure. She was started on dialysis, which took so much of her time that she was able to do little else. To save her life, her husband gave her one of his kidneys. She spent the next year mostly in and out of hospitals as her body tried to reject the transplant. The transplant extended her life for another six years. In 2016 she was also diagnosed with colon cancer.  She died on May 24, 2023, from kidney failure.

High Blood Pressure and Kidney Failure
High blood pressure can damage the kidneys to cause kidney failure (Hypertension, 2007;50:991–7). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 37 million people suffer from chronic kidney disease, and kidney failure is frequently preceded by high blood pressure and/or diabetes. One in three people with diabetes and one in five with high blood pressure will have kidney disease. Other risk factors for kidney disease include heart disease and a family history of kidney failure. Most people do not suffer significant symptoms until the late stages of kidney disease. Symptoms include: fatigue, difficulty concentrating, no appetite, difficulty sleeping, muscle cramps, swollen feet, swelling around eyes, dry, itchy skin, and frequent urination.

High blood pressure should always be treated (Ann Intern Med, 2003;139:244–52), even if it takes several drugs to control it (CMAJ, 2013 Aug 6; 185(11): 949–957). The goal should be to get blood pressure below 130/80 (J Hypertens 2009;27:2121–58). People who are in kidney failure and have high blood pressure are often treated with ACE inhibitors or Angiotensin receptor blockers, because these drugs also help to reduce the amount of protein lost in the urine.  People with high blood pressure or diabetes should get routine blood tests that can detect kidney damage, called EGFR and cystatin C.  Kidney failure can cause anemia, so people who are anemic are often given drugs to stimulate their bone marrow to make more red blood cells.

People in kidney failure are usually told to avoid aspirin, NSAIDS such as ibuprofen, naproxen (Aleve), and celecoxib (Celebre), and stomach acid suppressers such as proton pump inhibitors (PPI). You may need to take vitamin D pills and some minerals, and have a consultation with a renal diet specialist. Your doctor will help you decide if you need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Tina Turner
Nov 26, 1939 – May 24, 2023