The National Institutes of Health says March is National Kidney Month, a time to learn about kidney disease.
Why should you care? To start, chronic kidney disease affects more than one person in seven in the U.S. That’s more than 37 million people in the United States.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, you are at higher risk for kidney disease. And diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney failure.
Kidney failure affects African Americans more than any other group.
The close connection between diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease is a reason Swope Health encourages your attention.
“When you visit Swope Health, we check on your current health conditions and we also want to understand your past medical and social history,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer. “We do this to help you manage potential risks.”
Dr. Jamal continued: “Knowing the risk is the first step in managing the risk.”
What do I need to know? After reviewing your family history, if you have a potential risk, your doctor may want to take tests for more information. A test may also be needed if you are over 60 and have diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. The tests use urine and blood samples to screen for kidney disease.
Kidney disease, like many other diseases, does not always have visible symptoms in its early stages. You might have the disease without knowing it.
What if I’m at risk? Testing is the first step. If you find you do have early symptoms, your doctor can help with a treatment plan.
Treatment may involve lifestyle changes, like a specially designed diet or quitting smoking. Kidney disease continues to progress, but you and your doctor can build a plan to slow the disease. The top 10 steps for managing kidney disease:
Ten ways to manage kidney disease
- Control your blood pressure
- Meet your blood glucose goal if you have diabetes
- Work with your health care team to monitor your kidney health
- Take medicines as prescribed
- Work with a dietitian to develop a meal plan
- Make physical activity part of your routine
- Aim for a healthy weight
- Get enough sleep
- Stop smoking
- Find healthy ways to cope with stress and depression
Some people live for years with the disease under control, but sometimes the disease progresses and causes kidney failure. This means the kidneys no longer are able to function in removing waste from the body.
With kidney failure, patients may need to undergo a treatment called dialysis, which filters waste and water outside the body. Another option is a kidney transplant, an operation in which the failed kidney is removed and replaced with a healthy kidney from a donor.
What else can I do? If you are at risk for kidney disease, you can get tested regularly. Early detection can help prevent the disease from progressing to kidney failure.
If you are at a higher risk for kidney disease, you can share the information with your family so they too can check their own status and take steps to prevent the disease from progressing. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease offers a guide on having conversations with your family to learn about history and look out for each other.
You can also work with your healthcare provider to build out a plan for healthy living. Such a plan may include prescribed medications, a lean and low-salt diet, physical activity and weight management, as well as tips on sleeping, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and managing stress.
For more information on chronic kidney disease, explore:
- Kidney Disease: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Chronic Kidney Disease Initiative: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Chronic Kidney Disease: The National Kidney Foundation
If you have questions about your kidney health, please make an appointment with your doctor. Call us to schedule at 816-923-5800.