Chronic Kidney Disease Basics: What you need to know if you live with diabetes

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Chronic Kidney Disease Basics: What you need to know if you live with diabetes

Betsy RodriguezContributor: Betsy Rodriguez, BSN, MSN, DCES
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Your kidneys, each just the size of a computer mouse, filter all the blood in your body every 30 minutes. They work hard to remove wastes, toxins, and excess fluid. They also help control blood pressure, stimulate production of red blood cells, keep your bones healthy, and regulate blood chemicals that are essential to life.

Kidneys that function properly are critical for maintaining good health, however, more than one in seven American adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD).

CKD is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as well as they should. Because of this, excess fluid and waste from blood remain in the body and may cause other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.1

Some other health consequences of CKD include:

  • Anemia or low number of red blood cells
  • Increased occurrence of infections
  • Low calcium levels, high potassium levels, and high phosphorus levels in the blood
  • Loss of appetite or eating less
  • Depression or lower quality of life

CKD has varying levels of seriousness. It usually gets worse over time though treatment has been shown to slow progression. If left untreated, CKD can progress to kidney failure and early cardiovascular disease. When the kidneys stop working, dialysis, or kidney transplant is needed for survival. Kidney failure treated with dialysis or kidney transplant is called end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

Not all people with kidney disease progress to kidney failure. To help prevent CKD and lower the risk for kidney failure, control risk factors for CKD, get tested yearly, make lifestyle changes, take medicine as needed, and see your health care team regularly.

What are the risk factors?

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Family history of CKD
  • Obesity

Yes, diabetes is one of the risk factors. But we have good news! Take note of the following kidney-friendly tips; they can make a difference in your life:

  • Maintain your blood pressure below 140/90 mm Hg (or the target your doctor establishes for you).
  • Stay in your target blood sugar range as much as possible.
  • Get active—physical activity helps control blood pressure and blood sugar levels. 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week should be your goal. It is easy - just walk.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • Get tested for CKD regularly if you’re at risk.
  • If you have CKD, meet with a dietician to create a kidney-healthy eating plan. The plan may need to change as you get older or if your health status changes.
  • Take medications as prescribed by your doctor and ask your him/her about blood pressure medicines called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers, which may protect your kidneys in addition to lowering blood pressure.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking can worsen kidney disease and interfere with medication that lowers blood pressure.
  • Include a kidney doctor (nephrologist) on your health care team. Ask your primary care doctor to refer you to a kidney doctor, especially if you have diabetes.

Take Aways OR Pearls of Wisdom

  • Early education can lead to prevention
  • Manage diabetes to the best of your ability
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure
  • Team-based care is essential for complex diseases like diabetes, include a kidney doctor early in the game

You can learn more in the following links: some of the information available in English and Spanish

Learn more about the Chronic Kidney Disease Initiative


Betsy Rodríguez is Deputy Director, National Diabetes Education Program, and a public health advisor for the Health Education and Promotion Team at the Translation, Health Education and Evaluation Branch in the Division of Diabetes Translation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She is a diabetes educator and health disparities supporter of racial and ethnic minorities and vulnerable populations in the United States and Latin America. She is currently contributing to the Community Guide’s review of Interventions Engaging Community Health Workers for Diabetes Management. Currently, Betsy is the chair of the American Diabetes Association National Health Disparities Committee.

Ms. Rodríguez works as a bicultural specialist in health communication strategies and the development of diabetes educational resources for Hispanics/Latinos and other ethnic minority groups. For the past 15 years, Ms. Rodríguez has been diligently working to support Hispanics and Latinos living in the States and Latin America that experienced some inequity due to diabetes.