The numbers are alarming! More than 26 million Americans suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), a disease that causes kidney failure if left untreated.

When the filters fail

CKD is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and can therefore not perform their blood-filtering function adequately. The waste that should have been filtered and passed on to your bladder for elimination now builds up in your blood. This can cause you problems such as high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, and nerve damage. If your CKD continues untreated, you could suffer kidney failure. This means that your kidneys can no longer be relied on to filter your blood. Your risk for heart disease is also higher with uncontrolled CKD.

The grace period

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main cause of CKD. Both of these conditions can damage the tiny, delicate filters in the kidneys and cause them not to function properly. This damage happens over the years, presenting us with a grace period; an opportunity to get it under control before the damage happens.

Keeping alert

Don’t allow kidney failure to take you by surprise. You may not have symptoms even when you have lost three-quarters of your kidney function. Talk to your healthcare provider about getting your kidney function tested. Also be aware of symptoms that could indicate poor kidney function, such as fatigue, trouble concentrating, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, swollen feet and ankles, and puffy eyes.

Two simple tests

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a blood test that measures your level of kidney function based on the level of creatinine in your blood and other factors such as your age, race and gender.

A simple urine testdi checks for blood or albumin (a type of protein) in the urine, which can be early signs of kidney disease.

CKD Risk factors

The National Kidney Foundation has identified the following as risk factors for CKD. If you have any of these risk factors it is a good idea to get a kidney health check:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Family history of kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease
  • African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian, or Pacific Islander heritage
  • Age 60 or older
  • Obesity
  • Low birth weight
  • Prolonged use of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Lupus or other autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones

If you have CKD

If you have been diagnosed with CKD, here are six recommendations by the National Kidney Foundation for helpful lifestyle adjustments:

  • Lower your blood pressure if it is high
  • Keep blood-sugar levels under control if you are diabetic
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Avoid NSAID painkillers
  • Moderate protein consumption
  • Get an annual flu shot
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