| Dialysis | Kidney disease | Patient stories | Transplant

Give Your Kidneys the Greatest Present this Holiday

December 21, 2022, 4:51pm EST

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Did you spend this holiday season worrying about everyone else? If so, it's time to take a break and give your health some attention. After all, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are at risk for kidney disease. But early detection can help you successfully prevent or slow it.

1. Know your risks

Diabetes and high blood pressure are responsible for two-thirds of chronic kidney disease cases. Many people aren't aware of this fact. Mario, a kidney transplant recipient, was one of them.

When Mario was in his early twenties, healthcare professionals at his military base discovered he had alarmingly high blood pressure.

"I didn't realize how serious it was because I didn't know anything about blood pressure, but I could see from their looks that it was a problem," Mario said. "They told me that the sample they pulled from the kidney biopsy was nothing but scar tissue and my kidneys were failing. My kidneys were functioning at only 25%."

Had Mario known to check and manage his high blood pressure, he may have been able to maintain his kidney function for much longer. 

Other risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Kidney and urinary tract abnormalities
  • Autoimmune diseases

A minute could save your life. Take our 60-second quiz and discover if you are at risk for kidney disease. 

2. Schedule your yearly checkup

Getting tested for kidney disease is quick and easy.

You only need two simple tests:

  1. ACR (albumin to creatinine ratio): A urine test for albumin, a type of protein. Having protein in your urine may mean your kidneys aren't working as well as they should.
  2. Serum creatinine: Creatinine is a waste product in your blood typically removed by the kidneys. Results from this test will be used to determine your eGFR, or how well your kidneys are functioning.

Don't wait! Early detection and treatment may help you maintain kidney function and avoid kidney failure. Take it from Coby, a kidney transplant recipient whose kidneys failed after years of ignoring kidney disease symptoms like urinating blood, fatigue, and puffiness.

"They did blood work and my creatinine level was through the roof. All my basic kidney numbers were in the gutter," said Coby. "I was sent to a nephrologist and that was scary. It was the first time someone mentioned organ transplant to me, and I remember being in tears thinking like my life was over."

Coby’s life was far from over, though–Knowledge is power! Once healthcare professionals knew what was happening, they could treat and educate him. With lifestyle changes and a kidney transplant, Coby feels better than he has in over a decade.

3. Make healthy lifestyle changes

During these cold winter months, it's easy to fall back into bad habits like ignoring your exercise routine and indulging in too many holiday cookies. While taking breaks and eating unhealthy foods in moderation is completely okay, you can't ignore the fantastic benefits of getting or staying healthy.

For Dine, whose kidneys failed from IgAN, living a healthy lifestyle helped her maintain kidney function for almost 15 years.

"I ate healthily, exercised regularly, and meditated to help manage stress. My blood pressure and cholesterol readings stayed normal. My creatinine and proteinuria levels were stable," said Dine. "Although I experienced fatigue, I did everything in my power to live a normal, healthy, life. I raised my son and built a successful career."

Here's where you can start:

  1. Take medications as directed: Are you prescribed medications to help manage your health? Taking them as prescribed will help you control chronic conditions and help lead to better health outcomes.
  2. Exercise: You don't need to run marathons or become a professional weight lifter to benefit from activity–Exercises like walking, swimming, and swimming work just as well! Aim for the recommended 150 to 300 minutes of movement every week. If this sounds daunting, break your exercises into 10-minute sessions. 
  3. Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet: Aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose lean meats like turkey and chicken and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Watch how much salt, sugar, and fat you consume. Here’s a list of healthy foods to add to your diet.

Get more tips to help you live a healthy life.

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