March is National Kidney Month!

According to an article posted in the website of the American Diabetes Association (ADA),  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; and the information listed below is from the ADA site.

“So how does diabetes cause kidney disease? 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 can damage this filtering system. High levels of blood glucose cause stress on the filtering system in the kidneys. After many years, they start to leak, and protein, that is supposed to stay in the bloodstream, is lost in the urine. Having small amounts of protein in the urine is called microalbuminuria. This damage can happen 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, called end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is very serious and requires a kidney transplant or dialysis.

Since there are usually no symptoms associated with early kidney failure, lab tests are essential. A blood test measures the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which indicates how well the kidneys 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.

The steps to keep your kidneys healthy include:

a) Ask your health care provider, if the GFR (blood) and albumin (urine) tests for kidney disease have been done, and have this lab work done as often as recommended.

b) Keep your blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol in the desirable target ranges.

c) Take all medications as directed by your provider.

d) Reduce your sodium/salt intake. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium, or less than one teaspoon, per day. If you already have high blood pressure, you may need to reduce sodium intake to 1800mg. Choose foods that are heart healthy: fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products; limit alcohol intake; excess protein intake is not advised.

e) Be more physically active, and if needed, lose weight.

f) If you smoke, take steps to quit. Among other adverse effects of smoking, it can worsen kidney damage.

Improving diabetes control will help reduce the occurrence of kidney disease. Research has shown that tight blood glucose control can reduce the risk of microalbuminuria by one third! Other studies have suggested that tight control can even improve microalbuminuria.” Discuss your kidney disease risk factors with your health care provider.

For more information, visit the National Kidney Disease Education Program, at http://www.nkdep.nih.gov; or the American Diabetes Association, at http://www.diabetes.org.

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