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The world of diabetes can be complex and filled with many potential complications, one of which is Diabetic Kidney Disease (DKD), sometimes referred to as Chronic Kidney Disease or CKD.
When faced with terms like “blood glucose” and “A1C”, it can be intimidating for the everyday individual to grasp the potential risks and understand their own health condition. In this article, we break down the critical aspects of DKD into simple, easily digestible sections, giving you a clear picture of what it is, how it arises, the associated risks, and how to manage it effectively.
What is diabetic kidney disease?
Diabetic kidney disease, sometimes abbreviated as DKD and often spoken of as Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a kidney-related complication that can arise due to diabetes. It’s a top reason why people experience kidney issues. Approximately one in three adults living with diabetes has kidney disease.
Your kidneys act as natural filters, removing waste and excess water from your blood to create urine. They also regulate blood pressure and produce important hormones. When damaged by conditions like diabetes, the kidneys may struggle to perform these tasks, causing a buildup of waste in your body, and potentially leading to other health issues. This kidney damage usually happens gradually, over many years, but steps can be taken to delay or prevent it.
How does diabetes lead to Chronic Kidney Disease?
Diabetes can lead to high blood sugar levels, which can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys, impairing their ability to function properly. Many individuals with diabetes also have high blood pressure, another risk factor for kidney damage.
Who is at a higher risk of developing Chronic Kidney Disease?
Long-standing diabetes, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure are the main factors that raise your risk for diabetic kidney disease. Certain ethnic groups such as African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics/Latinos are also at a higher risk.
Other lifestyle factors that can elevate your risk include smoking, not adhering to a diabetes-friendly diet, consuming high-salt foods, leading a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, and having heart disease. Family history of kidney failure can also play a role.
How can I know if I have Chronic Kidney Disease?
Diabetic kidney disease is often symptomless in its early stages. Regular kidney health checks using blood and urine tests are the most reliable way to detect it. These tests measure the presence of a protein called albumin in your urine and how efficiently your kidneys are filtering your blood. If you have type 2 diabetes, or if you’ve had type 1 diabetes for more than five years, yearly kidney health checks are highly recommended.
How can I protect my kidneys if I have diabetes?
To prevent or slow down diabetic kidney disease, it’s crucial to maintain healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels. This can be achieved by adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking prescribed medication. Regular blood tests will be needed to measure your average blood sugar levels over the past three months (a measure called A1C), with a goal of keeping this value below 7 percent for many people.
Controlling your blood pressure is also essential for protecting your kidneys. Strive to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range and work with your healthcare team on how best monitor and achive an ideal blood pressure range.
Lifestyle changes can also make a big difference. Quit smoking, consider adopting a kidney-friendly ketogenic diet, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours each night).
How can I manage diabetes-related stress?
Managing diabetes can sometimes be stressful, which could affect your blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as deep breathing, gardening, walking, yoga, meditation, hobbies, or listening to calming music can help.
Will Chronic Kidney Disease worsen over time?
While kidney damage from diabetes can worsen over time, many preventative steps can be taken to keep your kidneys healthy and slow the progression of the disease. Should your kidneys lose most of their functioning ability, known as kidney failure, don’t worry — most people with diabetes and kidney disease don’t reach this stage. If you find yourself in this situation, know that there are many ways to manage kidney disease effectively.
Managing diabetes and its potential complications, like Chronic Kidney Disease, can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. However, remember that knowledge is power. The more you understand your condition and the steps you can take to manage it, the more control you’ll have over your health. In the end, the goal is to keep you healthier, longer, and allow you to enjoy life to the fullest. Keep an open dialogue with your healthcare team and make use of the resources available to you. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and there is plenty of support out there to help you live well with diabetes.
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