Published on December 01, 2020

kidney medical illustration

Treating Blood Pressure and Diabetes to Preserve Kidney Function

Our kidneys are just as vital an organ as our brains or hearts – and they do a lot of work to make sure our internal systems are working like they should.

The kidneys’ role in our health is why kidney disease is such a threat. More than 80 million Americans have a risk of this condition, which is often a silent killer, because awareness is low.

It’s all about prevention.

Think of the kidneys as the quarterback of the vital organ team. Understanding how diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease are related can help people avoid or manage the condition. This is why it’s important to avoid chronic kidney disease with regular blood pressure screenings.

“Prevention means progress,” said Junaid Syed, Avera Medical Group nephrologist.

If you can master your high blood pressure with healthier food choices, avoid nicotine and maintain vigorous levels of activity, you can also protect your kidney function.

“The important thing is people don’t give up when they get a diagnosis. We can work together, and with changes and medication, we manage and control it,” he said.

Kidney Disease Comes in Stages

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is classified with five stages, all based on the percentage of kidney function of a patient. When function dips below 100%, it is considered Stage 1:

  • Stage 1 and 2 are mostly sub-clinical, in that there will be no indicators in a person’s day-to-day life.
  • When function drops between 30-60% it is considered stage 3.
  • Stage 5 is the final stage, and if it’s not treated or reversed, it can lead to end-stage renal (kidney) failure.

Renal replacement therapy (RRT) is needed when the end-stage is reached, Syed said. The approaches to help patients who are in that stage are dialysis or kidney transplant, or a combination of both. Dialysis machines serve patients as an artificial kidney.

Nephrologists or internal medicine specialists have three tests for CKD, two blood-serum tests (serum Cr and GFR) as well as a total urine proteins test. Each is used to diagnose kidney disease.

Outside of diabetes patients, the signs of CKD do not often show up unless a person has testing, Syed said. Protein in the urine and swelling, especially in the extremities, are common CKD indicators.

Diabetes Management Helps Kidneys

The kidneys of people with either type of diabetes — Type 1 or Type 2 — can be damaged due to the higher levels of glucose (blood sugar) in the blood. Diabetes is considered an independent risk factor for chronic kidney disease.

“People with diabetes must manage it carefully,” Syed said. “When they manage the condition well – with a good diet, proper activity and other lifestyle choices – they can avoid damage to their kidneys.”

The Blood Pressure and Kidney Cycle

People who smoke or are overweight, or who have a diet high in processed food and salt, can see spikes in blood pressure. The kidneys are directly connected to blood pressure, too. Some things to remember:

  • The more severe the high blood pressure, the more damage is done to the kidneys.
  • When kidney function gets lower, it will increase blood pressure. That’s another reason why catching blood pressure early and treating it effectively makes such a big difference.
  • Family history plays a role in blood pressure. If your parents or grandparents had high blood pressure, you’re more likely to have it, too. Yet most of the ways to lower your numbers are all about lifestyle. 

“This is one thing many people don’t realize: the more severe the high blood pressure, the more damage is done to the kidneys,” said Syed. “Catching blood pressure early and treating it effectively makes such a big difference.”

If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, an Avera provider in your area can help you get the conditions under control.

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