By Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P.,
Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Kidney disease often starts silently, but its effect on women, families, and communities is resounding. As the 9th leading cause of death for American women, kidney disease afflicts more than 16 million women in the United States. Yet chronic kidney disease (CKD) often has no symptoms. So what can be done? Thankfully, research, including studies funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), has empowered us with several steps to prevent CKD and lead healthier, happier lives.
By embracing a healthy lifestyle today and every day, you can help prevent kidney disease by preventing its main causes. You are at risk for kidney disease if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure. The United States has the third highest rate of new cases of kidney failure in the world. Approximately 700,000 people in the U.S. have kidney failure treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Women of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds, such as African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians are more likely to have kidney failure. This disparity is due in part to high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure in these communities. Since women are so impacted by kidney disease and these health problems tend to run in families, women can take the lead in encouraging their loved ones to be aware of the family’s history of kidney disease and its risk factors.
The following healthy lifestyle habits can help families prevent or manage diabetes and high blood pressure. Taking action now can help protect your kidneys:
Keep your whole body healthy
• Make healthy food choices—Choose fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Read food labels and choose foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
• Be physically active for 30 minutes or more on most days.
• Aim for a healthy weight—If you’re overweight, work with your health care provider or dietitian to create a realistic weight-loss plan. The NIH Body Weight Planner is an online tool to help you tailor your plans to achieve and stay at a healthy weight.
• Get enough sleep—Adults should aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, and children need between 9 and 14 hours.
• Take medications as prescribed.
• Quit smoking, if you smoke.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, you should get tested for kidney disease. Testing is easy and involves a blood test and a urine test. The blood test tells how well your kidneys are working. The urine test checks for albumin, a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.
If you have diabetes, get checked every year. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure, talk with your health care provider about how often you should get tested. Encourage friends, family, and community members to get tested if they are at risk.
Seek early treatment
The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help prevent or delay progression to kidney failure.
Learn more and share NIDDK resources
For tools and information to help you and your family reach your health goals, visit niddk.nih.gov. Also, find tips in my weekly Healthy Moments radio broadcast. Learn more and listen to recorded episodes by searching “Healthy Moments” on the NIDDK home page. Also follow NIDDK on Twitter @NIDDKgov, and on Facebook, search NIDDKgov.