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Diabetes, High Blood Pressure Raise Kidney Disease Risk

Family of four running outdoorsMost people with kidney disease aren’t aware of their condition. If you have diabetes, ask your doctor about getting tested for kidney disease. Keep your kidneys healthy by controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure.

Kidney disease damages your kidneys, preventing them from cleaning your blood as well as they should.

This damage can cause wastes to build up in your body and lead to other health problems, including heart disease and weak bones. It can cause anemia, which makes you feel tired and weak as the number of red blood cells becomes low. Chronic kidney disease eventually can cause kidney failure if it is not treated.

If you do have the disease, it's important to be diagnosed early. Treatment can slow down the disease and prevent or delay kidney failure. Because chronic kidney disease often develops slowly and with few symptoms, many people with the condition don't realize they're sick until the disease is advanced and their blood must be cleaned by a machine. This is called dialysis. Blood and urine tests are the only ways to tell if you have chronic kidney disease.

World Kidney Day - March 13, 2014

March 13 is World Kidney Day, a day for raising awareness of kidney disease for prevention and early detection.

Tips for Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

Steps to help keep your kidneys healthy include the following:

  • Keep blood pressure below 140/80 mm/Hg, but check with your health care provider for your appropriate target.
  • Stay in your target cholesterol range.
  • Eat foods lower in sodium.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Take your medications as directed.

If you have diabetes, take these steps, too:

  • Meet blood sugar targets as often as you can.
  • Have an A1c test at least twice a year, but ideally up to four times a year. An A1c test measures the average level of blood sugar over the past three months.

Photo: Rural Farmer holding basket of vegetablesIf your blood pressure is high, check it regularly and get it under control to make sure your kidneys remain healthy. Talk to your doctor about medicines and other ways to lower your blood pressure.

Helping to prevent type 2 diabetes is another important step in preventing kidney disease. Studies have shown that overweight people at higher risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their body weight, or 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. You can do that by eating healthier and getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

Photo: Senior couple riding bicycles

Who Is More Likely to Develop Kidney Disease?

In addition to diabetes and high blood pressure, other conditions that increase the risk of kidney disease include heart disease, obesity, older age, high cholesterol, and a family history of chronic kidney disease. A physical injury can also cause kidney disease.

Estimates show that approximately one in six African Americans has signs of kidney disease. African Americans are about three and a half times more likely to develop kidney disease than whites. Hispanics are about one and a half times more likely to develop kidney disease than non-Hispanics.

Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 20 million of U.S. adults have chronic kidney disease and most of them are not aware of their condition.

And more than 35% of adults with diabetes have chronic kidney disease. High blood sugar (blood glucose) and high blood pressure increase the risk that chronic kidney disease will eventually lead to kidney failure. If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure reduces the risk of developing kidney disease or may delay it.

Injuries and Infections Can Damage Your Kidneys

Infections can damage your kidneys and bladder, too. Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs of bladder infection:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine.
  • Pain or burning when you urinate.
  • An urgent need to urinate often.

Also, speak with your health care provider if you have any of these signs of kidney infections:

  • Back pain.
  • Chills.
  • Fever.

Chronic Kidney Disease Could Lead to Dialysis or a Transplant

The final stage of chronic kidney disease is kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease. People with kidney failure need dialysis, where blood is cleaned by a machine, or a new, healthy kidney through a transplant.

In 2010, more than 110,000 people in the United States began treatment for kidney failure. For every ten new cases, seven had diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure) listed as the primary cause of kidney failure. In that same year, more than 580,000 people in the United States were living on chronic dialysis or with a kidney transplant.

Take steps to keep your kidneys healthy. If you have a higher risk of kidney disease, talk to your doctor about getting tested.