Protect Your Kidneys by Controlling Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

March 1, 2012

Diabetes and high blood pressure are common causes of kidney disease. However, most people with kidney disease are not aware of their condition. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about getting tested for kidney disease, and keep your kidneys healthy by controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure.

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you could have chronic kidney disease, which is loss of kidney function. Because chronic kidney disease often develops slowly and with few symptoms, many people with the condition don’t realize they’re sick until the disease is advanced and requires dialysis.

Chronic kidney disease results from physical injury or a disease that damages the kidneys, such as diabetes or high blood pressure . Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for the death of more than 48,000 people in 2008 . In 2000, more than 26 million U.S. adults had chronic kidney disease and most of them were not aware of their condition.

March 10 is World Kidney Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of kidney disease and the importance of its prevention and early detection. This year, World Kidney Day focuses on the link between chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease—Protect your Kidneys, Save your Heart—especially noteworthy since chronic kidney disease and diabetes are both major risk factors for cardiovascular disease . Controlling blood glucose (sugar), blood pressure, and cholesterol can prevent or delay chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease and improve health outcomes .

How Can You Prevent or Control Kidney Disease?

Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease. High blood sugar can cause damage to the kidneys. If you have diabetes, controlling blood sugar and blood pressure reduces the risk of developing kidney disease or may slow its progression. People with diabetes should have an A1C test, which measures the average level of blood sugar over the past three months, at least twice a year, but ideally up to four times a year.

High blood pressure can also damage your kidneys. If your blood pressure is high, check it regularly and get it under control to make sure your kidneys remain healthy. Talk to your doctor about medicines to lower your blood pressure.

Helping to prevent type 2 diabetes is another important step in preventing kidney disease. Recent studies have shown that overweight people at higher risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their body weight, or 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. You can do that by eating healthier and getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week .

Injuries and Infections Also Can Damage Your Kidneys

Infections – such as those affecting the bladder and kidney – can damage your kidneys, too (7). Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs of bladder infection:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • An urgent need to urinate often

Also, speak with your health care provider if you have any of these signs of kidney infections:

  • Back pain
  • Chills
  • Fever

Chronic Kidney Disease Could Lead to Dialysis or Kidney Transplantation

The final stage of chronic kidney disease is end-stage renal disease, which requires kidney dialysis (filtering of blood through a machine) or transplantation. However, persons with chronic kidney disease are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than develop end-stage renal disease. In 2008, more than 110,000 people in the United States began treatment for end-stage renal disease . For every 10 new cases, seven had diabetes or hypertension listed as the primary cause. In that same year, more than half a million people in the United States were living on chronic dialysis or with a kidney transplant.

CDC Addresses Kidney Disease

CDC’s Chronic Kidney Disease Initiative  is designed to provide public health strategies for promoting kidney health. To accomplish this goal, CDC has housed the Initiative within CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation and has taken a collaborative approach with other divisions and centers at CDC, other governmental agencies, national groups, and other interested partners.

CDC’s Chronic Kidney Disease Initiative comprehensively includes efforts dedicated to establishing a national surveillance system and supporting a screening demonstration project and cost studies, among others. The key findings in the 2008 surveillance report include:

  • In 1999–2006, among participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 5% of those with mild kidney disease (stages 1 or 2) reported being aware of having chronic kidney disease; of those with moderate disease (stage 3), awareness was only 7.5%; and even for those with severe disease (stage 4), just 40% were aware of their condition. Among those with moderate or severe chronic kidney disease, participants who were younger than 65 years (15%) and male (13%) and those who were non-Hispanic black (21%) had the greatest levels of awareness relative to their counterparts.
  • Awareness rates for moderate or severe chronic kidney disease were higher in those with diagnosed diabetes and high blood pressure, but still quite low (20% and 12%, respectively).
  • Persons with chronic kidney disease in the community are unlikely to be aware of their disease and to seek appropriate treatment.