National Kidney Month in March is part of an awareness campaign to help reduce the incidence of chronic kidney disease – the progressive loss of kidney function. You could be at increased risk for this condition if you are among the millions of Americans with diabetes or hypertension – the leading causes of chronic kidney disease.
Your hard-working kidneys filter nearly 200 quarts of blood each day and remove wastes and extra fluid that are excreted in urine. The elevated blood glucose levels associated with diabetes force the kidneys to work harder and adversely affect their function. Chronic high blood pressure also puts additional stress on the kidneys, causing the organ’s blood vessels to narrow, weaken or harden. If the kidneys’ blood vessels are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from your body.
‘It is Vital’ to Control Diabetes, High Blood Pressure
People with diabetes and high blood pressure should be aware of their susceptibility to chronic kidney disease and take steps to prevent it, says Gabriel Solti Grasz, M.D. , an internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care . “It is vital that you control these two conditions and their effect on your kidneys by seeing your doctor regularly, monitoring your blood pressure, eating a healthy diet, reducing salt intake and taking any medications prescribed,” Dr. Solti Grasz said.
However, it is difficult to control high blood pressure if you are not aware that you have the condition. Hypertension is called “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms until after it has caused damage to the heart, arteries and kidneys. Chronic kidney disease also has no symptoms until the disease is advanced. That’s why building a relationship with a primary care provider – someone who you can trust with your health concerns as you move through life – is important. Your doctor can help you manage your risk factors for many chronic conditions.
Other risk factors of chronic kidney disease are smoking, excessive alcohol use and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in large quantities for an extended period of time. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen are known to increase the load on the kidneys, Dr. Solti Grasz says. He recommends partnering with your doctor if you need to take a pain reliever for more than seven consecutive days.
Detecting Abnormal Kidney Function
If you are at increased risk for chronic kidney disease, your doctor will likely monitor your blood pressure and conduct two simple tests to detect early signs of abnormal kidney function:
- Urine test – to check for persistent protein in your urine. When your kidneys are damaged, they do not properly filter protein, causing it to leak into your urine.
- Blood test – to check for creatinine, a waste product that comes from muscle activity. The results of your blood creatinine test will be used to estimate your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) – a measure of your kidney function.
“Early detection and treatment can slow the progression of chronic kidney disease and prevent complications like kidney failure and heart disease,” Dr. Solti Grasz said. “Treatment usually consists of measures such as medications and healthy lifestyle changes to treat the underlying conditions and reduce symptoms.”
End-stage kidney disease is diagnosed when your kidneys have stopped working well enough for you to survive without dialysis or a kidney transplant. The goal, says Dr. Solti Grasz, is to take good care of yourself and take measures to prevent chronic kidney disease from developing in the first place. Adopt these healthy habits to protect your kidneys:
- Manage diabetes, hypertension and heart disease
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco
- Eat a healthy diet
- Reduce salt intake
- Drink plenty of water
- Don’t resist the urge to urinate
- Exercise daily
- Avoid excessive use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs