What Can I Do About Kidney Disease?

Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease often cannot be cured. But if you are in the early stages of a kidney disease, you may be able to make your kidneys last longer by taking certain steps. You will also want to be sure that risks for heart attack and stroke are minimized, since CKD patients are susceptible to these problems.

  • If you have diabetes, watch your blood glucose closely to keep it under control. Consult your doctor for the latest in treatment.
  • Avoid pain pills that may make your kidney disease worse. Check with your doctor before taking any medicine.

Blood Pressure

People with reduced kidney function (a high creatinine level in the blood or a low creatinine clearance) should have their blood pressure controlled, and an ACE inhibitor or an ARB should be one of their medications. Many people will require two or more types of medication to keep their blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg. A diuretic is an important addition to the ACE inhibitor or ARB.

Diet

People with reduced kidney function need to be aware that some parts of a normal diet may speed their kidney failure.

Protein. Protein is important to your body. It helps your body repair muscles and fight disease. Protein comes mostly from meat. As discussed in an earlier section, healthy kidneys take wastes out of the blood but leave protein. Impaired kidneys may fail to separate the protein from the wastes.

Some doctors tell their kidney patients to limit the amount of protein they eat so that the kidneys have less work to do. But you cannot avoid protein entirely. You may need to work with a dietitian to find the right food plan.

Cholesterol. Another problem that may be associated with kidney failure is too much cholesterol (koh-LES-tuh-rawl) in your blood. High levels of cholesterol may result from a high-fat diet.

Cholesterol can build up on the inside walls of your blood vessels. The buildup makes pumping blood through the vessels harder for your heart and can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Sodium. Sodium is a chemical found in salt and other foods. Sodium in your diet may raise your blood pressure, so you should limit foods that contain high levels of sodium. High-sodium foods include canned or processed foods like frozen dinners and hot dogs.

Potassium. Potassium is a mineral found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, like oranges, potatoes, bananas, dried fruits, dried beans and peas, and nuts. Healthy kidneys measure potassium in your blood and remove excess amounts. Diseased kidneys may fail to remove excess potassium, and with very poor kidney function, high potassium levels can affect the heart rhythm.

Smoking

Smoking not only increases the risk of kidney disease, it contributes to deaths from strokes and heart attacks in people with CKD. You should try your best to stop smoking.

Treating Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which the blood does not contain enough red blood cells. These cells are important because they carry oxygen throughout the body. If you are anemic, you will feel tired and look pale. Healthy kidneys make the hormone EPO, which stimulates the bones to make red blood cells. Diseased kidneys may not make enough EPO. You may need to take injections of a man-made form of EPO.

Preparing for End-Stage Renal Disease

As your kidney disease progresses, you will need to make several decisions. You will need to learn about your options for treating ESRD so that you can make an informed choice between hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and transplantation.

The above information is from the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Publications produced by the Clearinghouse are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts.

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