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How to Protect Your Kidneys With Diabetes

Growing up as a teenager in the 90’s, I helped my mother care for my grandmother who had type 2 diabetes. I witnessed, firsthand, how her uncontrolled diabetes led to chronic kidney disease (CKD).

CKD is a condition where your kidneys lose function gradually over time.  Within a few months, her CKD developed into stage IV kidney failure and the need for kidney dialysis. Dialysis is a treatment that clears the body of water and toxins when the kidneys are no longer able to do their job.  Since my mother was a nurse and her primary caregiver, the decision was made to start peritoneal dialysis daily at our home versus hemodialysis three days a week in a facility. This experience at my young age, inspired me to become a nurse and specifically try to help people with diabetes who were struggling with kidney failure like my grandmother.

Fast forward thirty years, I am fortunate to be able to have met one of my goals of caring for and educating people with diabetes.  However, despite the increase in education and urge for intense diabetes management, chronic kidney disease is still a major complication of diabetes. Uncontrolled and persistent high blood sugars can damage the small vessels of the kidney. According to the Centers for Disease Control,  approximately 30% of people with type 1 diabetes and 10 to 40 % of people with type 2 will develop CKD.How to Protect Your Kidneys

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, here are a few ways you can take control and reduce your risk of getting CKD:

  1. Maintain a healthy range of your blood glucose levels. The typical range is 70 mg/dL to 180 mg/dL.  Discuss with your healthcare practitioner what your individual healthy glucose range should be.
  2. Create a doable self-management plan.  Work with your diabetes team to create this plan in order to meet and maintain that healthy glucose range.
  3. Monitor kidney function tests, know your levels, and discuss them with your practitioner. Try to obtain the necessary blood work or urine samples prior to visiting your practitioner so you can discuss the results. Keep track of your levels so you can detect any changes or decline in kidney function:
    • Urine test to detect protein (albumin)
    • Urine albumin to creatine ratio
    • Glomerular Filtration Rate
    • Creatine level
    • Blood Urea Nitrogen
  4. Maintain a healthy blood pressure level. aim for 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is another culprit that will damage your kidneys. If your kidneys are damaged, you may have high blood pressure.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Aim to exercise approximately 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. In addition, adding in 2 days of strengthening muscle activity.
  6. Meet with a dietician who can assist with a renal-friendly diet, including low sodium.
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