Protect Your Kidneys, Prevent Pre-Diabetes
Kidneys play a life sustaining role in the body. Healthy kidneys filter your blood, regulate blood pressure and remove waste products and excess fluid from the body. During March, National Kidney Month, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is sounding the alert about a little-known condition called prediabetes that can damage the kidneys. According to the NKF, the good news is that prediabetes is reversible if detected early.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is the term that refers to the beginning stage of diabetes, or the precursor stage, when only some of the criteria for diabetes have been met. Blood sugar levels are not normal, but not quite at the point of having diabetes. Most importantly, when a person has prediabetes, it is still possible to reverse the symptoms by making changes to diet and exercise. Lifestyle changes can prevent prediabetes from turning into full-blown diabetes, which can ultimately lead to kidney damage and kidney failure if not properly managed.
Often when people have prediabetes, they do not experience any physical signs of the disease for many years. Many people don't realize that having high blood sugar can damage the kidneys even before being clinically diagnosed with diabetes, making prevention and screening that much more important. If you do experience physical symptoms, the signs of prediabetes include frequent urination, and excessive hunger and thirst. In reality, though, these symptoms can also indicate other health issues and sometimes these symptoms are hard to recognize or don't occur.
How is prediabetes diagnosed?
Prediabetes is most often diagnosed during routine, annual checkups. It's important to make sure your primary care physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant is checking your blood sugar, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure on an ongoing basis. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and diabetes are the two leading causes of chronic kidney disease, so having these numbers checked routinely is critical in protecting your kidneys.
Are you at risk?
There are a number of risk factors which make a person more likely to develop prediabetes and diabetes. It's important to find out your family history so that you know if you have a family or genetic link to diabetes. Many of the risk factors for prediabetes are modifiable. That's great news because you can make healthy lifestyle changes to reduce your risk and avoid that fate. If you identify with one of the risk factors below, you should discuss your risk of developing prediabetes with your doctor and take action to prevent damaging your kidneys.
1. Obesity. Being overweight is the leading warning sign for Type 2 diabetes. If your BMI is 25 or higher, it is crucial that you get tested for diabetes and kidney disease.
2. Insufficient exercise. Even if you are not overweight, not getting enough physical activity places you at risk. According to experts, the average adult should be performing cardio and muscle strengthening exercises for 150 minutes a week. Consistency is key. Exercise must be done on a regular basis, but it can be broken down into shorter workouts multiple times a week. For example, to achieve 150 minutes, you can exercise 5 times a week for 30 minutes. Exercise helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels in the short run. Contrary to popular belief, exercise can still have many health benefits, such as increasing insulin sensitivity, even if you don't exercise enough to lose weight.
3. Family history. If one of your first degree relatives has diabetes, you could be at risk. The genetic link in diabetes is very strong, so talk with your family about your health history in order to take a proactive approach to preventing it.
4. Diabetes during pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes should be screen regularly for diabetes even after pregnancy because they are at a higher risk for developing diabetes.
5. If you have a kidney transplant. There are drugs used in kidney transplantation, such as tacrolimus and prednisone, which have been linked with higher rates of prediabetes and post transplant diabetes. If you have a kidney transplant and take either of these medications, you should be monitored for glucose intolerance, prediabetes and diabetes.
6. Certain members of ethnic and racial minority groups. Certain racial and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives, are at an increased risk for developing diabetes. If you are a member of one of these groups, talk to your doctor about your risk factors for both diabetes and kidney disease.
7. Age. If you're over 45 years old, you may be at increased risk. Get checked!
8. History of cardiovascular disease. If you have a history of cardiovascular disease you're at an increased risk for developing diabetes and kidney disease.
9. High triglycerides. Triglycerides are a form of stored fat found in the blood. This test is typically part of a cholesterol or lipid panel test. If after a routine blood test, your doctor told you that you have high triglycerides, you are at an increased risk for developing diabetes and prediabetes as well as forms of heart disease. High triglycerides are the most common lipid finding in chronic kidney disease.
10. An elevated A1c test. An A1c test between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicates that you may have prediabetes.
To learn more about the impact of prediabetes and diabetes on the kidneys, visit the National Kidney Foundation online at kidney.org