5 ways to help prevent kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease is a common condition striking men and women alike. If left untreated, kidney failure is dangerous and can be life threatening. That's why knowing how to prevent it is so important.

5 ways to help prevent kidney disease

Generally speaking, chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidneys gradually lose their ability to filter waste and eliminate toxins from the blood.

  • It can eventually cause fatigue and shortness of breath, and it's the main reason people end up needing dialysis.
  • Once you have chronic kidney disease, you can't get rid of it. However, you can possibly halt or slow its progression.

Kidney disease: the facts

It's no wonder that chronic kidney disease is on the rise these days. Many people have high blood pressure, diabetes or both, and both conditions are leading causes. Surprisingly, one out of six adults have kidney disease, yet many people with weak or failing kidneys don't know it.

So how can you reduce your chances of developing the disease?

1. Prevent diabetes and high blood pressure

Your risk of chronic kidney disease doubles if you have both of these conditions, which damage tiny blood vessels in the kidneys.

If you have high blood pressure

  • Talk to your doctor about treating it with an ACE inhibitor.
  • Studies find these drugs work best at preventing kidney disease or at the very least preventing it from advancing to the point where dialysis or a transplant is required.

If you have diabetes

  • Keep your blood sugar levels as normal as possible. Again, your doctor can help you with a plan to control issues you may have with weight, exercise and diet.

If you have diabetes and high blood pressure

  • Then see above!

2. Get a simple kidney checkup

If you're at risk for kidney disease, meaning you have a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney problems, your doctor should regularly test your kidney function.

  • Many doctors use a blood test that measures a protein called creatinine. Because creatinine levels vary among individuals, the test can be somewhat unreliable.
  • Instead, experts recommend screening kidney function with the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test, a blood and urine test that measures how well the kidneys filter waste from the blood.

3. Buy a home blood pressure monitor

Pay special attention to your systolic blood pressure, the top number in your reading. It's a good indication of your vulnerability to kidney disease.

  • A major study of 8,093 men who were followed for 14 years found that a systolic pressure between 130 and 139 mmHg increased the risk of kidney disease by 26 percent, and one of 140 mmHg or higher increased it by 69 percent.

4. Spend the night in a sleep lab

If you snore loudly, your partner says you make loud choking or gasping noises while asleep, and/or you're exhausted during the day, you could have a condition called obstructive sleep apnea. As such, you may be more susceptible to having chronic kidney disease for reasons experts can't say.

  • Being overweight and having high blood pressure increase the risk of both conditions.
  • Researchers have noted that people with sleep-related breathing disorders often have anemia, or low levels of oxygen-carrying blood cells, which increases the risk of chronic kidney disease.
  • The only way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea for certain is with polysomnography, a test that evaluates your breathing as you sleep.

5. Skip dessert

While being overweight makes existing kidney disease worse, it can also increase the risk of developing the condition.

  • A recent study in 11,000 healthy men found those whose body mass indexes (BMIs) increased 10 percent or more over 14 years were 27 percent more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those whose BMIs either dropped or increased just five percent.
  • The risk remained even if the men had normal blood pressure and blood sugar and exercised regularly.
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