While some people are more at risk than others for kidney disease, it’s important to know there are some things you can control. Though you can’t change your family history, race or age, you can reduce the chances of developing other conditions that can lead to kidney disease—including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease—through lifestyle changes.
In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease, which can lead to anemia, bone disease, heart disease, high potassium, high calcium and fluid buildup. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 out of 3 adults with diabetes has chronic kidney disease.
How does diabetes affect your kidneys?
Diabetes develops when the human body is unable to control how much glucose (or sugar) is in the blood. In people without diabetes, the hormone insulin (a chemical made by the body) removes glucose from the blood. In people with diabetes, the body either does not make insulin or does not use insulin the way it should. This causes blood sugar levels to soar, which in turn damages the body’s small blood vessels, many of which are found in the kidneys. When these blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, they cannot properly clean your blood. As a result, waste products that the kidneys normally remove instead remain in the blood. According to the Cleveland Clinic, high levels of waste in the blood can cause anemia (low red blood cell count), high blood pressure and weak bones.
Diabetes can also damage the body’s nerves, which can lead to other complications. For instance, nerve damage can make it make it difficult to empty the bladder because the nerves can no longer sense the pressure that grows as the bladder fills. A patient with nerve damage in the bladder might not notice that they need to urinate. This constant pressure and presence of urine in the bladder (which is connected to the kidneys by tubes called ureters) can cause significant damage to the kidneys.
What can I do to lower my risk?
Becoming educated about the complications diabetes can cause—including kidney damage and its complications—can help you prevent them.
AMGA Foundation’s national diabetes initiative, Together 2 Goal®, is designed to help improve diabetes management and lower the number of people who will develop kidney disease. We’re pleased that the American Kidney Fund is partnering with us in this important effort.
During November, National Diabetes Month, Together 2 Goal® will host its National Day of Action to empower the entire country to better manage diabetes. We’re proud to participate in this year’s event and raise awareness of the connection between diabetes and kidney disease. You don’t have to have diabetes to join this effort! You can get involved by:
• Joining our Twitter chat: [note: this event has already passed] Together 2 Goal® is hosting a Twitter chat about diabetes on Thursday, Nov. 3 from 2-3 p.m. EDT. AKF and other organizations are participating, and individuals can join the conversation using the #T2Gchat on Twitter. One lucky participant will win a boxing glove signed by world champion boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, who was the keynote speaker at the Together 2 Goal® campaign launch event in March 2016!
• Pledging an “action” for diabetes: [note: this event has already passed] Organizations and individuals can publicly commit to taking at least one “action” on November 3 by completing our online pledge. Together 2 Goal® has great options for individuals to select from—including joining the Twitter chat, sharing a sign to show your support, or creating a personalized diabetes plan—or you can create your own “actions!” Many of the individual “actions” recommended by Together 2 Goal® are also great ways to manage kidney disease—such as getting physically active and eating healthy. The pledge is available at www.Together2Goal.org.
• Registering for AKF’s November webinar about diabetic kidney disease: In recognition of National Diabetes Month and the Together 2 Goal® National Day of Action, AKF’s November webinar for patients and caregivers will focus on preventing and managing diabetic kidney disease. Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, a nutrition educator from the Joslin Diabetes Center, will talk about what our kidneys do, how chronic kidney disease and diabetes are connected, risk factors, ways of preventing diabetic kidney disease (DKD), and lifestyle approaches for managing DKD. To learn more or register, click here.
AMGA Foundation empowers members to improve health and health care. With its partners and members, AMGA Foundation improves health for millions of Americans through its signature programs: the Acclaim Award, Best Practices Learning Collaboratives, and the Chronic Care Challenge, which includes Diabetes: Together 2 Goal®. Its population health initiatives are unique because the organization shares best practices based on quantitative data generated by its members. AMGA Foundation translates what works best in improving health and health care into everyday practice, enabling groups to deliver the best care possible. To learn more, visit www.amga.org/foundation.