March is National Kidney Month, and the National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the United States dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 37 million American adults are living with chronic kidney disease. That’s 1 out of every 7 — or 15% of the adult population. What’s even scarier is that 9 out of 10 adults don’t know they have it. It’s most common in women and in people 65 and older.
That’s why National Kidney Month is not only a good time to raise awareness, but it’s also a great time to learn what puts you at risk for kidney disease and how you can prevent it. So, let’s look at the key risk factors and ways you can maintain optimal kidney function.
Risk Factors For Chronic Kidney Disease
Three major risk factors include a family history of kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Family history is the first risk factor you should consider. If you have one or more family members who have chronic kidney disease, are on dialysis or have a kidney transplant, you may be at a higher risk.
Diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney disease. According to the National Kidney Foundation, if you have diabetes, you should be tested for kidney disease every year. You should also be controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure. These steps will also help those who already have diabetic kidney disease to stay healthier and avoid complications.
High blood pressure can damage your kidneys, so it’s important to get it checked regularly. You should also know what numbers are considered acceptable for your condition and work with your doctor to take steps that will keep you in that range.
Other risk factors include heart disease, obesity and past damage to your kidneys.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Since so many people don’t know they have kidney disease, it’s important to point out some of the symptoms that may tell you something is wrong. Symptoms include:
- Swelling in your hands or face
- Blood in your urine
- Painful urination
- Puffy eyes
If you begin experiencing any one or more of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor immediately.
Prevention and Early Detection of Kidney Disease
With chronic kidney disease, your kidneys become damaged over time. They cannot clean your blood as well as healthy kidneys. And when your kidneys don’t work well, waste and extra water will build up in your body and may cause other health problems, including:
- Anemia or low red blood cell count (can cause fatigue and weakness)
- Low calcium levels and high phosphorus levels in the blood
- High potassium levels in the blood (can cause an irregular or abnormal heartbeat)
However, if you have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease or you’re at risk, you can take steps to protect your kidneys and prevent or delay the onset of the disease.
Ways to prevent kidney disease from developing include:
- Healthy Diet: Your diet will play a critical role in keeping your kidneys healthy. Choosing foods that are good for kidney function (like fruits and vegetables) is a good place to start.
- Exercise: Being physically active for at least 22 minutes each day will go a long way to keep your kidneys healthy.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: If you are overweight or obese, work with your doctor or dietitian to create a realistic weight-loss plan.
- What is my glomerular filtration rate (GFR)?
- What is my urine albumin result?
- How often should I get my kidneys checked?
The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help protect your kidneys. Because diabetes is such a big risk factor for kidney disease, you may way want to check out our free, new guide. Inside you’ll learn what you can do to decrease your risk.