How to prevent kidney disease

How to prevent kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) often develops slowly and with few symptoms. Many people don’t realize they have CKD until it’s advanced and they need dialysis (a treatment that filters the blood) or a kidney transplant to survive.

If you have diabetes, get your kidneys checked regularly, which is done by your doctor with simple blood and urine tests. Regular testing is your best chance for identifying CKD early if you do develop it. Early treatment is most effective and can help prevent additional health problems.

CKD is common in people with diabetes. Approximately 1 in 3 adults with diabetes has CKD. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause kidney disease.

  • Kidney diseases are the 9th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Approximately 1 in 3 adults with diabetes has CKD.
  • Every 24 hours, 170 people with diabetes begin treatment for kidney failure.

How Diabetes Causes Kidney Disease

Each kidney is made up of millions of tiny filters called nephrons. Over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage blood vessels in the kidneys as well as nephrons so they don’t work as well as they should. Many people with diabetes also develop high blood pressure, which can damage kidneys too.

CKD takes a long time to develop and usually doesn’t have any signs or symptoms in the early stages. You won’t know you have CKD unless your doctor checks you for it.

Tips To Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

You can help keep your kidneys healthy by managing your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. This is also very important for your heart and blood vessels—high blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels are all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

How to prevent kidney disease

Physical activity can help
prevent kidney disease.

  • Keep your blood sugar levels in your target range as much as possible.
  • Get an A1C test at least twice a year, more often if your medicine changes or if you have other health conditions. Talk to your doctor about how often is right for you.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly and keep it below 140/90 mm/Hg (or the target your doctor sets). Talk to your doctor about medicines and other ways to lower your blood pressure.
  • Stay in your target cholesterol range.
  • Eat foods lower in sodium.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Be physically active.
  • Take your medicines as directed.

Prediabetes and Kidney Disease

If you have prediabetes, taking action to prevent type 2 diabetes is an important step in preventing kidney disease. Studies have shown that overweight people at higher risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay developing it by losing 5% to 7% 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. CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle change program can help you create the healthy lifestyle habits needed to prevent type 2 diabetes. Find a program in your community or online.

If you have a long-term condition that could lead to CKD, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, it's important this is managed carefully.

Follow the advice of your GP, take any medicine you're prescribed and keep all appointments relating to your condition.

Stop smoking

Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks or strokes, which is associated with a higher risk of CKD.

Stopping smoking will improve your general health and reduce your risk of these serious conditions.

The NHS Smokfree helpline can offer you advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking. Call 0300 123 1044 or visit the NHS Smokefree website.

Healthy diet

A healhy, balanced diet can reduce your risk of kidney disease by keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at a healthy level.

A balanced diet should include:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables – aim for at least 5 portions a day
  • meals that include starchy foods, such as potatoes, wholegrain bread, rice or pasta
  • some dairy or dairy alternatives
  • some beans or pulses, fish, eggs, or meat as a source of protein
  • low levels of saturated fat, salt and sugar

You may also be given advice about dietary changes that can specifically help with kidney disease, such as limiting the amount of potassium or phosphate in your diet.

Manage alcohol intake

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to rise to unhealthy levels.

Sticking to the recommended alcohol limit is the best way to reduce your risk:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

14 units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.

Find out more about alcohol units.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise should help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing kidney disease.

At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week is recommended, as well as strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Be careful with painkillers

Kidney disease can be caused by taking too many non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, or taking them for longer than recommended.

If you need to take painkillers, make sure you follow the instructions that come with the medicine.

Kidney risk calculator

There is a calculator you can use to work out your risk of developing moderate to severe kidney disease over the next 5 years. You just need to answer some simple questions.

The calculator is only valid if you do not already have a diagnosis of CKD stage 3b or worse. Ask your doctor if you're unsure.

You may wish to use the tool during your next GP or practice nurse consultation.

37 million people in the United States are living with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

The term “chronic kidney disease” means lasting damage to the kidneys that can get worse over time. If the damage is very bad, your kidneys may stop working. This is called kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant in order to live.

What causes chronic kidney disease (CKD)?

Anyone can get CKD. Some people are more at risk than others. Some things that increase your risk for CKD include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart disease
  • Having a family member with kidney disease
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian
  • Being over 60 years old

What are the symptoms of kidney failure?

You may notice one or more of the following symptoms if your kidneys are beginning to fail:

  • Itching
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Too much urine (pee) or not enough urine
  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Trouble sleeping

If your kidneys stop working suddenly (acute kidney failure), you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal (belly) pain
  • Back pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nosebleeds
  • Rash
  • Vomiting

Having one or more of any of the symptoms above may be a sign of serious kidney problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away.

Complications of CKD

Your kidneys help your whole body work properly. When you have CKD, you can also have problems with how the rest of your body is working. Some of the common complications of CKD include anemia, bone disease, heart disease, high potassium, high calcium and fluid buildup. Learn more about the complications of CKD.

Stages of CKD

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) refers to all 5 stages of kidney damage, from very mild damage in Stage 1 to complete kidney failure in Stage 5. The stages of kidney disease are based on how well the kidneys can do their job – to filter waste and extra fluid out of the blood. Learn more about the stages of CKD.

How can I prevent CKD?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of CKD. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, working with your doctor to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure under control is the best way to prevent kidney disease.

Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease, or help keep them under control. Follow these tips to lower your risk for kidney disease and the problems that cause it:

  • Follow a low-salt, low-fat diet
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days of the week
  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco
  • Limit alcohol

How do I know if I have CKD?

CKD usually does not have any symptoms until your kidneys are badly damaged. The only way to know how well your kidneys are working is to get tested. Being tested for kidney disease is simple. Ask your doctor about these tests for kidney health:

    eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate)

The eGFR is a sign of how well your kidneys are cleaning your blood.

Your body makes waste all the time. This waste goes into your blood. Healthy kidneys take the waste out of your blood. One type of waste is called creatinine. If you have too much creatinine in your blood, it might be a sign that your kidneys are having trouble filtering your blood.

You will have a blood test to find out how much creatinine is in your blood. Your doctor will use this information to figure out your eGFR. If your eGFR is less than 60 for three months or more, you might have kidney disease.

This test is done to see if there is blood or protein in your urine (pee).

Your kidneys make your urine. If you have blood or protein in your urine, it may be a sign that your kidneys are not working well.

Your doctor may ask you for a sample of your urine in the clinic or ask you to collect your urine at home and bring it to your appointment.

This test is done to see how hard your heart is working to pump your blood.

High blood pressure can cause kidney disease, but kidney disease can also cause high blood pressure. Sometimes high blood pressure is a sign that your kidneys are not working well.

How is CKD treated?

Damage to your kidneys is usually permanent. Although the damage cannot be fixed, you can take steps to keep your kidneys as healthy as possible for as long as possible. You may even be able to stop the damage from getting worse.

  • Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
  • Keep a healthy blood pressure.
  • Follow a low-salt, low-fat diet.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Talk to your doctor about medicines that can help protect your kidneys.

If you catch kidney disease early, you may be able to prevent kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

Kidney-friendly diet for CKD

You need to have a kidney-friendly meal plan when you have chronic kidney disease (CKD). Watching what you eat and drink will help you stay healthier. A kidney-friendly diet may also help protect your kidney from further damage by limiting certain foods to prevent the minerals in those foods from building up in your body. Learn more about the kidney-friendly diet for CKD.

Some kidney problems may be temporary, or symptoms of other conditions like chronic kidney disease (CKD), which can lead to end-stage renal disease (ESRD, also known as kidney failure). 37 million Americans have kidney disease, but most of them do not know it because it has no symptoms in the early stages. In this section, learn more about kidney disease and kidney problems, kidney failure and how it is treated, and other kidney conditions.

About your kidneys

You cannot survive without your kidneys. They filter waste and extra water (fluid) out of your blood, but they also do many other important jobs that keep your body working the way it should. Learn more about your kidneys and how they keep you healthy.

Chronic kidney disease

The term “chronic kidney disease” means lasting damage to the kidneys that can get worse over time. If the damage is very bad, your kidneys may stop working. This is called kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant in order to live. Learn more about chronic kidney disease (CKD), its symptoms and complications, and what a kidney-friendly diet is like.

Kidney failure/ESRD

Kidney failure, also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is the last stage of chronic kidney disease. When your kidneys fail, it means they have stopped working well enough for you to survive without dialysis or a kidney transplant. Learn more about what causes kidney failure, its symptoms, the treatment options, complications and the ESRD diet.

Kidney problems

Some kidney problems can be early signs of chronic kidney disease (CKD), the type of kidney damage that can get worse over time and lead to kidney failure. Other kidney problems can lead to CKD if they are not treated. Knowing your body and contacting your health care provider when you notice something isn’t right can help you prevent bigger problems in the future. Learn about common kidney problems like kidney stones, blood or protein in urine, acute kidney injury, kidney infection and kidney pain.

Kidney disease in children (pediatric kidney disease)

Kidney disease in children, also called pediatric kidney disease, often has causes that are different from those that usually account for kidney disease in adults. Learn more about kidney disease in children.

Mental health and kidney disease

Many people with kidney disease experience challenges with their mental wellbeing. Learn more about mental health.

Other kidney conditions

Kidney donation

Nearly 100,000 people living with kidney failure are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, but there are not nearly enough kidneys available for all the people who need them. Most people can live with only one kidney. Learn more about donating a kidney.

HelpLine

Do you have questions about kidney disease or kidney failure? Send a question to our free HelpLine.

Free kidney health screenings

Most cases of kidney disease could be prevented, and if it is caught early, its progression can often be slowed or stopped. Testing is the only way to know if your kidneys are working properly. See a list of free kidney health screenings from the American Kidney Fund.

Other online information

For more information about kidney disease, kidney problems and other kidney conditions, see these websites.

A person with stage 3 chronic kidney disease (CKD) has moderate kidney damage. This stage is broken up into two: a decrease in glomerular filtration rate (GFR) for Stage 3A is 45-59 mL/min and a decrease in GFR for Stage 3B is 30-44 mL/min. As kidney function declines waste products can build up in the blood causing a condition known as “uremia.” In stage 3 a person is more likely to develop complications of kidney disease such as high blood pressure , anemia (a shortage of red blood cells) and/or early bone disease.

Symptoms of stage 3 CKD

Symptoms may start to become present in stage 3:

  • Fatigue
  • Fluid retention, swelling (edema) of extremities and shortness of breath:
  • Urination changes (foamy; dark orange, brown, tea-colored or red if it contains blood; and urinating more or less than normal)
  • Kidney pain felt in their back
  • Sleep problems due to muscle cramps or restless legs

Seeing a doctor when you have stage 3 CKD

As stage 3 progresses, a patient should see a nephrologist (a doctor who specializes in treating kidney disease) . Nephrologists examine patients and perform lab tests so they can gather information about their condition to offer the best advice for treatment. The nephrologist’s goal is to help their patient keep their kidneys working as long as possible.

Meeting a dietitian when you have stage 3 CKD

Someone in stage 3 may also be referred to a dietitian . Because diet is such an important part of treatment, the dietitian will review a person’s lab work results and recommend a meal plan individualized for their needs. Eating a proper diet can help preserve kidney function and overall health.

Get help managing your kidney diet with free kidney-friendly cookbooks.

Diet and stage 3 CKD

For stage 3 CKD, a healthy diet is likely to consist of:

  • Eating high-quality protein and potassium (if blood levels are above normal)
  • Consuming some grains, fruits and vegetables (potassium and phosphorus are at normal levels)
  • Limiting phosphorus to help PTH levels remain normal, prevent bone disease and even preserve existing kidney function
  • Lowering calcium consumption
  • Cutting back carbohydrates for those with diabetes
  • Decreasing saturated fats to help lower cholesterol
  • Lowering sodium for people with high blood pressure or fluid retention by cutting out processed and pre-packaged foods
  • Limiting calcium if blood levels are too high
  • Taking water soluble vitamins such as C (100 mg per day) and B complex, or completely avoiding over-the-counter dietary supplements (unless approved by the nephrologist)

It’s helpful to work with a registered renal dietitian because as the stages of CKD change, so will the diet.

Medications and stage 3 CKD

Many people who develop CKD have diabetes or high blood pressure. By keeping their glucose level under control and maintaining a healthy blood pressure, this can help them preserve their kidney function. For both of these conditions, a doctor will likely prescribe a blood pressure medicine . Studies have shown that ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) help slow the progression of kidney disease even in people with diabetes who do not have high blood pressure. Patients should ask their doctors about all of their medicines and take them exactly as prescribed.

More ways to manage stage 3 CKD

In addition to eating right and taking prescribed medicines, exercising regularly and not smoking are helpful to prolonging kidney health. Patients should talk to their doctors about an exercise plan. Doctors can also provide tips on how to stop smoking.

Get help when you have stage 3 CKD

There is no cure for kidney disease, but it may be possible to stop its progress or at least slow down the damage. In many cases, the correct treatment and lifestyle changes can help keep a person and their kidneys healthier longer.