A to Z Health Guide

Six-Step Guide to Protecting Kidney Health

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a major public health concern. CKD often goes undetected until it is very advanced (when someone would need dialysis or a transplant).  But when it is diagnosed early through very simple tests, progression of CKD can be slowed or even stopped.  Know your kidney score!  Regualar testing for everyone is important but it is especially important for people at risk.  Follow these 6 steps to learn more about kidney disease, your risk, and how to prevent kidney disease.

Step 1: Know These Facts

6 Things Healthy Kidneys Do:
  • Regulate the body’s fluid levels
  • Filter wastes and toxins from the blood
  • Release a hormone that regulates blood pressure
  • Activate Vitamin D to maintain healthy bones
  • Release the hormone that directs production of red blood cells
  • Keep blood minerals in balance (sodium, phosphorus, potassium)
8 Problems CKD Can Cause:
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Death
  • Weak bones
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Kidney failure (end-stage renal disease, or ESRD)
  • Anemia or low red blood cell count

Step 2: Assess Your Risk

4 Main Risk Factors:
  • Diabetes (self or family)
  • High blood pressure (self or family)
  • Cardiovascular disease (self or family)
  • Family history of kidney disease or diabetes or high blood pressure
10 Additional Risk Factors:
  • African-American heritage
  • Native American heritage
  • Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander heritage
  • Age 60 or older
  • Obesity
  • Low birth weight
  • Prolonged use of NSAIDs, a type of painkillers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Lupus, other autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones

Step 3: Recognize Symptoms

8 Possible Trouble Signs:
Most people with early CKD have no symptoms, which is why early testing is critical. By the time symptoms appear, CKD may be advanced, and symptoms can be misleading. Pay attention to these:
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Difficult, painful urination
  • Foamy urine
  • Pink, dark urine (blood in urine)
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased need to urinate
    (especially at night)
  • Puffy eyes
  • Swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, feet

Step 4: Get Tested

If you or a loved one belong to a high-risk group, ask your primary-care physician about these tests—and be especially insistent about the last one. Your doctor may want to perform other tests as well.
4 Simple, Life-Saving Tests:
What:
Blood Pressure
Why:
High blood pressure can damage small blood vessels (glomeruli) in the kidneys. It is the second-leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes.
Good Score:
Below 140/90 is good for most people. Below 130/80 is better if you have chronic kidney disease. Below 120/80 is best.
What:
Protein in Urine
Why:
Traces of a type of protein, albumin in urine (albuminuria) is an early sign of CKD. Persistent amounts of albumin and other proteins in the urine (proteinuria) indicate kidney damage.
Good Score:
Less than 30 mg of albumin per gram of urinary creatinine (a normal waste product)
What:
Creatinine in Blood (Serum Creatinine)
Why:
Healthy kidneys filter creatinine (a waste product from muscle activity) out of the blood. When kidney function is reduced, creatinine levels rise.
Good Score:
0.6 to 1.2 mg per deciliter of blood, depending on other variables
What:
Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)
Why:
This is the most sensitive and accurate gauge of kidney function. Doctors measure blood creatinine levels and perform a calculation based on age, race, and gender.
Good Score:
Over 90 is good. 60-89 should be monitored. Less than 60 for 3 months indicates CKD.

Step 5: Stay Healthy

6 Things People with CKD Should Do:
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Keep blood-sugar levels under control if diabetic
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Avoid NSAIDs, a type of painkillers
  • Moderate protein consumption
  • Get an annual flu shot
9 Things Everyone Should Do:
  • Exercise regularly
  • Control weight
  • Follow a balanced diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink only in moderation
  • Stay hydrated
  • Monitor cholesterol levels
  • Get an annual physical
  • Know your family medical history

Step 6: Learn More

Do you need a kidney health check? Come to the National Kidney Foundation's KEEP Healthy program and find out. One in three Americans is at risk for developing kidney disease. KEEP Healthy will help you learn if you're the one.  For more information, click here.  To learn more about CKD risk factors, prevention and treatment, visit www.kidney.org.

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.