Having type 2 diabetes can put you at an increased risk for both heart disease and kidney disease. Because these three conditions are so closely linked, the American Kidney Fund (AKF) is collaborating with Know Diabetes By Heart™, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, to help people reduce their health risks. In 2020, Know Diabetes by Heart further expanded its efforts to raise awareness around the vital role the kidneys play in heart health and encourage people with type 2 diabetes to get tested annually for kidney disease.
To talk more about these collaborative efforts, we sat down with Know Diabetes by Heart Director, Alyssa Pressley, to ask her some important questions about the initiative, diabetes and the close link between heart health and kidney health.
What led to the development of the Know Diabetes by Heart initiative and why did it expand to include AKF?
Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are two of the biggest health threats in the U.S., and they have a devastating link. People with type 2 diabetes — more than 30 million in the U.S. alone — have twice the risk of being diagnosed with heart disease and stroke compared to people without diabetes. Diabetes makes it more likely for people to develop high blood pressure, which can affect both heart and kidney health. Diabetes is also one of the biggest factors that increases people's risk for kidney disease and is the number one cause of kidney failure.
AKF was invited to join Know Diabetes by Heart as an alliance member because we wanted to expand the reach of our prevention and awareness messaging by further educating people about the connection of these three diseases. Science is on our side and there are things people can do, but our research has shown that people are not talking with their doctors about their heart health or getting regularly tested for kidney disease. By joining forces, our organizations can make a greater impact than any of us could make alone.
Why should people with type 2 diabetes pay close attention to their kidney health, and what are you doing to raise awareness?
People living with type 2 diabetes and kidney disease are three times more likely to die of a heart problem or event compared to people with type 2 diabetes alone. Staying on top of kidney health is an important piece of the puzzle in minimizing your risk for heart disease and stroke. Plus, many of the behaviors and therapies that support a healthy heart also support healthy kidneys. We hope to raise awareness by sharing resources and encouraging people with diabetes to visit AKF's website at KidneyFund.org.
What is one action that people with type 2 diabetes should take regarding their kidney health?
If you have type 2 diabetes, it is important to make sure you get screened for kidney disease annually, which includes a urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio urine test. This test can help diagnose kidney disease in the earlier stages, which have no symptoms and too often go undetected by the more common estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) blood test * until your kidney disease is more advanced. After your kidney screening, be sure to ask your doctor about your results and talk to them about what you can do to keep your kidneys and your heart healthy.
What resources and support are available for people with type 2 diabetes?
Know Diabetes by Heart offers a variety of resources for people with diabetes and their loved ones, including educational materials, healthy recipes, stories of inspiration and more. We also host monthly Ask the Experts virtual events, during which you can interact live with a health care professional, and we offer the 12-month Living with Type 2 Program, which is geared toward people who have been recently diagnosed. You can stay on top of the latest news and resources by joining our monthly newsletter at KnowDiabetesByHeart.org/join.
AKF offers information about diabetic kidney disease on its website. They also have a guide on how to talk to your doctor about slowing down the progression of kidney disease that includes questions people with diabetes can ask.
What are your hopes for Know Diabetes by Heart moving forward?
I am looking forward to us building on the successes of the past three years, and continuing to drive change in clinical care for those living with type 2 diabetes and empower individuals to be informed and active members of their health care team.
I am also excited about our work with AKF, an organization that adds valuable expertise on the connection between diabetes, and heart and kidney health. AKF serves as a trusted resource and advocate for both patients and health care professionals.
*eGFR is an estimate of how well your kidneys are working. The way eGFR is calculated will be changing. Currently the test considers your age, sex and whether you are Black, among other things. A task force led by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) is working on recommendations that may remove African American race as a factor in the eGFR calculation. The task force has been seeking the input of stakeholders. AKF advised the task force that eGFR equations should be an unbiased estimate of kidney function. This would make sure that every person will receive appropriate and equitable care. When the NKF-ASN task force makes its recommendations, AKF will promptly review them and then update our educational materials.
In collaboration with the Know Diabetes By Heart™ Alliance