How can I keep my kidneys healthy if I have diabetes?

William Lee Dubois

Most diabetics know that high blood sugar will totally trash our kidneys in time. What many of us don’t know, or tend to forget, is that high blood pressure is even more damaging.

Kidney’s are delicate little critters. They are bundles of very tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Capillaries don’t like to be abused. High blood sugar is corrosive to them and high blood pressure is explosive to them.

And unlike some other kinds of tissue, once damaged, they have very little capacity to grow back.

To keep your blood sugar in control you should monitor it with your meter, take your meds, and call your doctor if you are having trouble keeping your sugar in the range your care team has chosen.

If you have having trouble controlling your blood sugar, look to your diet and cut down on carbohydrates, as these turn to sugar in your blood more quickly than other foods.

Likewise, monitor your blood pressure. You can do this with a home cuff, or you can visit your local health office or pharmacy on a regular basis. If you’ve been prescribed medication for high blood pressure you need to take it. Some people need to take two and three different medications to control high blood pressure.

If you are having trouble with your blood pressure, look at your diet and see how much salt you are consuming. Don’t assume all salt comes in shakers. Many processed foods are high in it as well. Check the label for the “sodium” content.

Remember: love your kidneys and they’ll love you back.

It's a myth that all people with diabetes need to limit their protein intake. People who are diagnosed with kidney disease are often told to lower their intake of protein, along with a number of other nutrients. But as long as your kidney function is normal, you do not have to limit your protein intake.

If you have diabetes, take these steps to help keep your kidneys healthy:

  • Meet blood sugar targets as often as you can.
  • Have an A1c test at least twice a year, but ideally up to four times a year. An A1c test measures the average level of blood sugar over the past three months.

If your blood pressure is high, check it regularly and get it under control to make sure your kidneys remain healthy. Talk to your doctor about medicines to lower your blood pressure.

Helping to prevent type 2 diabetes is another important step in preventing kidney disease. Recent studies have shown that overweight people at higher risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5% to 7% of their body weight, or 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. You can do that by eating healthier and getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.