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Diabetes & Kidney Disease

Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on February 12, 2023

Diabetes is on the rise across the world. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people diagnosed with diabetes almost quadrupled between 1980 and 2014. In the United States, 34.2 million people currently have diabetes, and 88 million have prediabetes, with high blood sugar levels that could develop into diabetes if left unchecked.


Diabetic Kidney Disease


If you live with diabetes, several complications can develop as it takes its toll on your body. One of the most common issues patients with diabetes face is diabetic kidney disease (DKD). DKD affects about 1 in 3 adults with diabetes, making it the leading cause of kidney disease


High Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure


The primary function of your kidneys is to remove excess water and waste from your blood. When you have high blood sugar (glucose) levels, it can damage your kidneys’ cells and blood vessels. This affects their ability to filter out waste products and excess fluid. 


Many patients with diabetes also suffer from high blood pressure, which can narrow their blood vessels. If the kidneys are no longer able to filter out all the extra fluid from your blood, this may cause your blood pressure to rise as more blood is pushed through the narrowed vessels. Over time this damage can become more severe, and this may lead to kidney failure


Managing DKD


If you have been diagnosed with Diabetic Kidney Disease, you must take measures to lower the risk factors for kidney failure.


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Managing Diabetic Kidney Disease

Managing Diabetic Kidney Disease

Blood Pressure Control


If you have elevated blood pressure, you need to take steps to control it. The recommended blood pressure goal for an adult with diabetes is below 130/80  mmHg. Still, it would be best if you spoke to your doctor about your blood pressure management goals. You should also make sure that you regularly take any blood pressure medicines that your doctor prescribes for you. These medications can help to slow kidney damage in patients with high blood pressure and DKD.


Blood Sugar Control


As part of your diabetes treatment, your doctor will regularly test your blood sugar levels. They will also test your A1C, which shows your average blood glucose level over three months. Most doctors prefer a person with diabetes to have an A1C of below 7 percent. Still, they will discuss your blood glucose goals based on your condition. They may prescribe medications to lower your blood sugar level, and it is essential to take them as instructed. Patients with diabetes are also encouraged to do their own blood glucose checks regularly. Most people use a blood glucose meter, which gives you a reading of how much blood sugar is in your system. By continuously monitoring your level, it can help you make the right decisions regarding the type of food you eat. Staying close to your goal level and maintaining healthy blood sugar will help protect your kidneys from further damage.


Develop Healthy Lifestyle Habits


One of the most effective tools in the management and care of DKD is developing better lifestyle practices.


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Maintaining Your Kidneys

Maintaining Your Kidneys

  • Healthy Diet Plan: An essential tool in lowering glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol is to change your diet. It can also help you to both lose weight and then maintain weight loss. Your doctor may recommend speaking to a dietitian to create an eating plan. Dietitians help you create a balanced diet made up of proteins, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Even without a set plan, you should aim to eat low-calorie foods and lower the amount of fat, sugar, and salt or sodium in your diet. Increase your water intake to help your kidneys function correctly.
  • Increase Physical Activity: Just as important as following a healthy diet plan is to ensure that you add more physical activity to your day. Thirty minutes of physical activity, such as swimming or brisk walking a few times a week, can help maintain a healthy heart. Along with a balanced diet, it can help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit Smoking: Smoking and diabetes do not mix. Both contribute to the narrowing of blood vessels, which will affect various functions of the body, including kidney function. Quitting will lower your risk for DKD. If you were smoking before your diagnosis, quitting might improve your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

The primary goal after being diagnosed with diabetes is to lower the risk of kidney disease development. However, around 40 percent of patients with diabetes will eventually develop kidney disease. Even if you have been diagnosed with Diabetic Kidney Disease, most people with diabetes and DKD do not develop renal failure. Nonetheless, you should take the necessary steps to keep your kidneys healthy and slow any further damage from diabetes. 

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