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Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease is a long-term problem that reduces the efficiency of your kidneys.

Marshfield Clinic Primary Care Doctors treat a variety of diseases and conditions.

Chronic kidney disease is one of the problems they treat.

There are two main causes of chronic kidney disease: high blood pressure and diabetes.

High Blood Pressure and Kidney Disease

If you have high blood pressure and it is not controlled, it can damage the walls of the blood vessels in your body including those in the kidneys.

If that happens, the tiny filtration units, or nephrons, become damaged and less able to filter your blood and waste products in the blood. Lowering high blood pressure can reduce the amount of damage to your kidneys and help slow any progression of kidney disease.

High blood pressure is one of the top two causes of kidney failure in Western countries.

Mature man taking his blood pressure at home.
Follow the instructions that come with your kit.

Normal blood pressure

The systolic pressure is when your heart is beating and pumping blood. The diastolic pressure is when your heart is relaxing and refilling with blood. A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. In chronic kidney disease, or CKD, the blood pressure goal is less than 130/80. However, your doctor may have a different goal for you, depending on your personal health condition.

Check your blood pressure often

Checking your blood pressure is a simple test that you can do at home. Most pharmacies have in-store monitors and home blood pressure monitors. For best results, keep the hints below in mind.

  • Always take your blood pressure at the same time of the day. Morning may be best.

  • Sit so that you feel relaxed, and do not talk.

  • Use the cuff on your bare arm.

  • Place the cuff so it fits snugly on your upper arm. Some monitors are placed on the wrist.

  • Follow all the instructions that come with your kit.

  • Keep a record of all your blood pressure readings.

  • Take your record and kit with you to healthcare provider visits. Ask your healthcare provider to check your blood pressure using your kit, and compare your readings with your providers.

Take medicine as directed

Blood pressure medicines often play a large role in treatment. Your medicine will work best if it’s taken as directed. Be sure to do these things:

  • Take your medicine at the same time each day.

  • Find out if it should be taken with food.

  • Call your healthcare provider if you think the medicine is making you dizzy or sick to your stomach.

  • Do not skip doses.

  • Do not stop taking your medicine unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Doing so may be harmful.

  • Get regular urine and blood tests at least annually to watch for kidney disease or monitor existing kidney disease.

Addressing other risk factors for kidney disease

Many other factors can also contribute to kidney disease. Smoking, diabetes, dietary habits, lack of exercise, obesity, and other factors can contribute.

Diabetes and Kidney Disease

Diabetes makes your body less able to use the foods you eat as sources of energy. As a result, glucose (the form of sugar the body uses as fuel) builds up in the blood.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can damage blood vessels and kidneys. By controlling diabetes, you can maintain a healthy blood glucose level and slow or prevent kidney damage.

Healthcare provider talking to man. Measuring cups and spoons, fruits and vegetables are on table.

African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics/Latinos develop diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and kidney failure at rates higher than whites. Patients with diabetes should have their kidney function measured at least once a year with appropriate blood and urine tests. Having diabetes is the most common reason for needing dialysis or a kidney transplant. 

Visit your healthcare provider as scheduled.

Follow your diet

To get the most energy from the foods you eat and feel your best, you may have to follow a special diet. Work closely with your healthcare team to design a meal plan that is right for you.

You may also need to:

  • Eat less protein.

  • Drink less fluid.

  • Limit sodium (salt) intake.

  • Eat foods that are low in phosphorus and potassium.

Take insulin and diabetes medicine as directed

Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use glucose. You may give yourself insulin to increase your body’s supply. Or you may take other medicines to help your body release more insulin or use insulin better. The stage of your kidney disease can reduce the amount of insulin your body needs. So your insulin injections or other medicine may be adjusted.

Talk with your healthcare provider if your blood glucose level is often too low. Monitor your blood glucose with a meter as directed by your healthcare provider.

Taking a blood pressure medicine called an ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor, or an ARB (angiotensin receptor blocker) helps people with both diabetes and high blood pressure reduce the risk of getting kidney disease, or worsening existing kidney disease. Studies show these medicines work even in people with diabetes who don't have high blood pressure.

Controlling other risk factors for kidney disease and diabetes will also help slow progression of kidney disease. Smokers should quit smoking as soon as possible. Controlling high blood pressure is also very important. Limiting alcohol consumption will help slow kidney disease. Maintaining a healthy body weight and getting regular activity are also important.

Stay active

Exercise helps the body use glucose. For best results:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a fitness program.

  • Ask your healthcare provider how often you should exercise and for how long.

  • Your healthcare provider may be able to suggest activities that will help you feel your best.

  • Eat 1 to 2 hours before you exercise.

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If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Call: 1-866-520-2510

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What Do You Really Know About Diabetes?

Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. And millions more have diabetes but don't know it, the CDC says. Yet diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. See how much you know about this long-term disease by taking this quiz.

1. How many people with diabetes has type 2 diabetes?
2. If your diabetes isn't under control, it can harm which body part?
3. What does insulin do?
4. Which of these makes it more likely for you to get type 2 diabetes?
5. Who is more likely to get type 2 diabetes?
6. What is a possible symptom of type 2 diabetes?
7. Diabetes can only be managed with medicine.
8. How does exercise help people with diabetes?