It’s National Kidney Month!

March is National Kidney Month, a time to raise awareness about the prevention and early detection of kidney disease. Did you know that diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure? The good news is that managing your diabetes well can help improve your health outcomes.

So how does diabetes cause kidney disease? The process goes like this: When our bodies digest protein, the procedure creates waste products. In the kidneys, millions of tiny blood vessels with even tinier holes in them act as filters. As blood flows through the blood vessels, small molecules such as waste products squeeze through the holes. These waste products become part of the urine. Useful substances, such as protein and red blood cells, are too big to pass through the holes in the filter and stay in the blood.

Diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, can damage this system. High levels of blood glucose cause stress on the filtering system in the kidneys. After many years, they start to leak, and things like protein that are supposed to stay in the bloodstream are lost in the urine. Having small amounts of protein in the urine is called microalbuminuria. This damage happens without any symptoms. 

In time, the kidneys stop working well. Waste products then start to build up in the blood. Finally, the kidneys fail. This failure, end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is very serious and requires a kidney transplant or dialysis.

Whew! Still with us? We hope so, because as mentioned above, the better a person keeps diabetes under control, the lower the chance of getting kidney disease. Research has shown that tight blood glucose control reduces the risk of microalbuminuria by one third. Other studies have suggested that tight control can even improve microalbuminuria.

Since there are usually no symptoms associated with early kidney failure, lab tests are essential. If you have diabetes, talk to your health care provider about how often you should be tested. This can be done by either a blood test or a urine test.

A blood test measures the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which tells how well the NKDEP_GFR_Dial_ENGLISHkidneys are filtering blood:

  • A GFR of 60 or higher is in the normal range.
  • A GFR below 60 may mean you have kidney disease.
  • A GFR of 15 or lower may mean kidney failure.

Urine tests check for albumin, a type of protein found in blood. When the kidneys are healthy, they don’t let albumin pass into the urine. When the kidneys are damaged, they let some albumin pass into the urine. The less albumin in the urine, the better.

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Now let’s talk prevention! You or a loved one living with diabetes can take the following steps to keep your kidneys healthy:

  • Get the GFR (blood) and albumin (urine) tests for kidney disease as often as your health care provider recommends.
  • Keep your blood glucose levels in your target range.
  • High blood pressure is very hard on kidneys, especially for people with diabetes. Keep blood pressure your target range.
  • Keep your cholesterol levels in the target range.
  • Take medicines as directed by your provider.
  • Cut back on salt. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, or less than one teaspoon, per day.
  • Choose foods that are healthy for the heart, like fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Be more physically active.
  • If you’re overweight, take steps to lose weight. Being overweight makes the kidneys work harder.
  • If you smoke, take steps to quit. Smoking can make kidney damage worse.

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It’s time to think about your kidneys this month and be a health kidney champion! Learn more about prevention, detection and management of kidney disease from the National Kidney Disease Education Program and our website.

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6 Responses to It’s National Kidney Month!

  1. Ricardo says:

    Great article!! Loved it! I’m doing all prevention right but did not know the details. Thanks and all the best for all of us sweet people :-)
    Ricardo

  2. Teresa Schell says:

    I had kidney failure mine was caused by rare kidney disease. I was @ last stages less then 8% before finding out went straight for dialysis 9 months later my sister in law was a match so far been 4 years 4 months & going strong, great article & advice to follow.

  3. This is a great article. I am a 53 year old African-American female with type 2 diabetes. I currently off work in an effort to get my blood glucose under control. I also have high blood pressure and cholesterol. I have been doing great lately. Also, I plan to talk to my doctor and view my test results for the GFR.
    Thanks again.

  4. paul ross says:

    VI wish I knew this info back in 2007 when I was diagnosed with kidney disease. I had requested to be tested for diabetes because of family history. Doctor ran a basic non fast blood test which showed my blood sugars slighly above normal. Stated no on being diabetic. If that doctor listened and ran proper test it would have shown I was type 2 diabetes the root cause for my kidney disease. I was finally dignosed type 2 in Aug 2013 and damage had already been done. Kidneys maintain by renal diet. But diabetes had effected heart, lungs, feet and hands all at once. Feb 2013 diabetes upgraded to type 1

  5. Glenda says:

    I was told that I had Type 2 diabetes at 20 years of age. At that time I did not want to follow the guidelines for living with the disease. I didn’t want to be different than my friends. Should have paid attention because at sixty, I am third stage kidney failure and paying the the price of feet & leg Neuropthy, eye problems, stomach problems, etc. If I had just followed doctor’s guidance, I would be enjoying life more than I am. If you are diagnosed when your young; pay attention to your doctor. It will only get worse as you grow older, if you don’t.

  6. Sonja Moreau says:

    I have type 2 diabetes, now for 22 years. I’ve tried several medications until about 2 years ago was put on insulin due to being in stage 3 kidney disease. They took me off of my arthritis medication and one of my blood pressure pills. I have neuropathy in my feet and hands, gout, thyroid problem, hypertension and high cholesterol (triglycerides). Diabetes is the cause of all my troubles. Living in pain daily, being on lyrica, oxycodone, fentanyl patch and voltaren gel; walk with the aid of a cane, exercising is not for me. I try to get up and down a lot, very limited shopping every week, and going to Dr appts. I don’t drive, I gave up my license when I was diagnosed with neuropathy in both feet and all the medications I’m on. There seems to be so many people affected by diabetes at this time. So many treatments available. We are all different, but the results are the same. Once your kidneys go, its going to be a rocky road. If you are young, please do what your doctor tells you, you don’t want to live with so many complications as I do. It was a gradual process.I miss my long walks and the things I used to be able to do, like dancing, roller skating and just walking through the malls. And most of all “being able to eat whatever I wanted to!”

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