Healthy kidneys remove waste and extra fluid from your blood through urine. Chronic kidney disease, or chronic kidney failure, occurs when kidneys lose their function over time. While treatment for kidney disease attempts to slow the progression of kidney disease, stage 5 kidney failure (End-Stage Renal Disease) is fatal without dialysis or a transplant.

Kidney disease is very serious, and it’s also, unfortunately, quite common. The National Institute of Health states that 14% of Americans have some form of chronic kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation suggests that one out of three Americans is at risk for kidney disease, making education about prevention even more important.

So, how can kidney disease be prevented?

Manage Diabetes Carefully

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of kidney disease, so properly managing your blood sugar levels is one of the best things you can do to prevent CKD. Gain control over your blood glucose levels by eating a healthy diet, watching carbohydrate intake, exercising regularly, staying hydrated and—if prescribed by your doctor—injecting insulin or using an insulin pump.

Your physician will be happy to talk to you about ways to keep your diabetes—and your risk of CKD—under control.

Even if you don’t have diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can help you maintain optimal kidney function.

Address High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is also a risk factor for kidney disease. Reducing your sodium intake is an easy way to help lower blood pressure, in turn lowering your risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

There are lots of ways to reduce the amount of salt you consume: replace deli turkey with fresh, lightly seasoned chicken breast, enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, and cook using interesting spices and rubs that add flavor, not salt.

Another important tip: read the nutrition facts. Many foods, like salad dressings and pasta sauces, can be loaded with hidden salt. You can often make these items at home with a fraction of the sodium. If you don’t want to cook, at least look for another product with significantly less added salt.

You can request low or no salt added at many restaurants.

You should also chat with your healthcare provider about medication and other ways to lower blood pressure.

Lower Your Cholesterol

High cholesterol, like high blood pressure and high blood sugar, can also cause kidney disease. By lowering your cholesterol, you can help keep your kidneys functioning properly. Of course, you can lower your cholesterol through diet, but high cholesterol is sometimes a matter of genetics, too.

You should talk to your doctor about your cholesterol levels and how to best keep them under control—whether through diet, medication or both. And if you don’t know if you’ve got high cholesterol, call your physician and schedule a physical today.

By lowering your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, you’re doing a ton to ward off kidney disease. Plus, doctors and scientists are always looking for new ways to prevent CKD—and there’s some promising research that indicates klotho therapy may one day help prevent the condition.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’ve got questions about kidney disease, its causes, its symptoms, and—of course—its prevention.

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