Major Kidney Disease Risk Factors: Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

June 06,2022 |
Two older women doing yoga.

Kidney disease is a prevalent and serious health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding the risk factors associated with kidney disease is crucial for early detection, prevention, and effective management. Two of the most significant risk factors are diabetes and high blood pressure, which can have a profound impact on kidney health. In this blog post, we will delve into these major risk factors, exploring their relationship with kidney disease and highlighting the importance of proactive measures to mitigate the risks. By gaining knowledge about these risk factors, we can take informed steps towards safeguarding our kidney health and promoting overall well-being.

What is Kidney Disease?

Your kidneys are an integral part of maintaining homeostasis within your body. They’re complex, bean shaped organs located on either side of the spine, just below the rib cage. The kidneys are part of the urinary system and help remove waste products from your body, keep blood pressure under control, balance the body’s fluids, and help make red blood cells.

Kidney disease, also referred to as chronic kidney disease (CKD), is a condition that occurs when either one or both of your kidneys are damaged. This restricts the function of the kidneys and makes it more difficult for them to filter blood, remove waste, and maintain chemical balances within your body.


Symptoms of Kidney Disease

The onset of CKD can either occur quickly or take many years to develop, which is why it’s important to keep an eye out for any symptoms. However, many people with early stages of kidney damage don’t realize they have it, so if you have any risk factors you should see your doctor regularly for a urinalysis. Some of the symptoms of kidney disease include the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleeping problems
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Swelling of feet or ankles
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Proteinuria is also another indication of chronic kidney disease, which can be identified during your yearly urinalysis. Unfortunately, symptoms of kidney disease can go unnoticed for years. Currently about 37 million Americans are living with CKD and 9 in 10 adults who have it don’t know.


Risk Factors of Chronic Kidney Disease

The two biggest risk factors of developing CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. Currently, an estimated 7.3 million people are living with undiagnosed diabetes and over 13 million people are unaware that they have high blood pressure. When these conditions are properly managed, it drastically reduces the risk of developing CKD.

The Impact of Diabetes on Kidney Health

When CKD is caused by diabetes, it’s referred to as diabetic kidney disease. This can occur from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. This is because diabetes can cause small blood vessels to become injured, which reduces the efficiencies of the kidneys filtering blood. This leads to an increase in retention of water and salt or proteinuria. When the small blood vessels are damaged, your body’s ability to expel waste is hindered.

At the same time, diabetes can wreak havoc on the body’s nervous system. When not properly managed, this can lead to problems emptying your bladderurinary retention—as you’re less likely to notice when it’s full and you need to go. Untreated urinary retention can further injure the kidneys and increase your risk of various infections that can go unnoticed and cause more harm.

About 30% of individuals living with type 1 diabetes will develop chronic kidney disease, while 10 to 40% of individuals with type 2 diabetes eventually suffer from kidney failure. This is why it’s important to do everything you can to manage your diabetes properly and keep your kidneys healthy.

The Impact of High Blood Pressure on Kidney Health

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can also damage the blood vessels required for transporting blood around your body. This can lead to constrictions of the blood vessels or narrowing passageways, which eventually causes damage that inhibits blood flow. When this problem isn’t addressed, it affects how the kidneys work. If kidneys are unable to do their job, extra fluid can build up in the blood vessels, thus worsening blood pressure and creating a dangerous cycle. High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney disease following diabetes.

Individuals who have both diabetes and high blood pressure are at an even greater risk for experiencing chronic kidney disease. Diabetes can lead to problems with the kidneys and high blood pressure, which in turn puts more stress on these organs. This is often seen as a triple health threat and is faced by millions of Americans. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or both, talk to your doctor about what you can do to keep your kidneys healthy.  


How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

The best way to take proactive action against developing kidney disease is to see your doctor regularly. During routine checkups, you’ll undergo both a urinalysis and have your blood pressure measured, which can help you catch and diagnose indications of CKD early. If you know that you’re at risk for developing kidney disease, it’s important to do everything you can to keep yourself healthy.

Manage Diabetes

One of the best ways to ensure that your kidneys stay healthy and functioning their best is to be diligent about managing your diabetes. You should be undergoing regular A1C blood tests to see your average blood glucose levels over time. Doing so can be more insightful than daily readings and provide a baseline for how to address problems. By maintaining an A1C under 7%, you can help protect your kidneys. To keep A1C levels low, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and administer insulin as needed. It’s also important to identify and treat any signs of diabetes distress early.

Control Your Blood Pressure

Another essential way to prioritize kidney health is to keep your blood pressure under control. High blood pressure is a precursor for many conditions, including heart disease and stroke, so focusing on lowering it will help with overall health and longevity. A good blood pressure goal for people living with diabetes is below 140/90 mm Hg. If your blood pressure is higher than this, your doctor may prescribe medications to help.

Practice Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Everything you eat has an impact on your body in one way or another. If you’re at risk for developing CKD, talk to your doctor about how to adopt a diet that’s focused on eating for kidney health. You should also try to reduce salt intake, as high sodium levels can impair kidney functioning and contribute to high blood pressure. Make sure you’re getting plenty of exercise and try to live a generally active lifestyle. If you’re overweight, work with your doctor to lose belly fat and maintain a healthy BMI. Additionally, prioritize your sleeping schedule and if you experience symptoms of a problem or rarely feel rested, get tested for sleeping disorders. Your quality and duration of sleep have a direct impact on your blood sugar and blood pressure. There are also several conditions that are impacted by smoking, as the chemicals and toxins have a debilitating effect on your body. If you smoke, work with your doctor to find a way to quit for good. 

Cope with Stress

While most people notice the mental impacts of stress, it can also wreak havoc on your physical body. Stress can cause further problems when managing diabetes, so finding a way to reduce anxiety and process difficult situations is recommended.

Living with diabetes or high blood pressure does not mean that you’re guaranteed to face kidney failure at some point throughout your life, but it does increase your risk substantially. That’s why properly managing your diabetes and seeing your urologist regularly is so essential. Byram Healthcare is a medical supply company that provides diabetes support alongside urologic products and education. To learn more, or to inquire about our selection of products, contact one of our representatives today.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.