When Was the Last Time You Thought About Your Kidneys?
By Michelle Hilton, MSN-NI, RN, Program Development Analyst, Somatus

Over 37 million Americans have some form of kidney disease and 90% don’t even know they have it. Make sure you understand kidney disease, the risk factors, and how you can take care of yourself if you are at risk.

What is chronic kidney disease? Imagine your kidneys as your body’s blood filtration system. Just like an air or water filter, your kidneys trap waste and toxins. Over time, factors like high blood sugar or elevated blood pressure can damage the kidneys and lessen their ability to remove waste products from the body. This is called chronic kidney disease or CKD.

CKD develops slowly over time and has few — and sometimes no — symptoms in the early stages. Unfortunately, most people don’t find out that they have CKD until they have reached a later stage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that an estimated 15% or Americans will develop CKD in their lifetime. That means that roughly 1 in 7 Americans could experience kidney disease at some point in their life.

What are the different stages of CKD? There are 5 stages of chronic kidney disease, ranging from mild kidney damage to severe kidney disease. End-stage kidney disease, or ESKD, means the kidneys are no longer able to do their job of filtering our blood and so patients need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Many people don’t experience symptoms of CKD until later stages of kidney disease, which is why earlier diagnosis and preventive care is essential. The earlier CKD is diagnosed, the more that can be done to slow the progression of the disease and improves one health.

What are the risk factors for CKD? Because symptoms don’t often occur until later stages, it is essential that you keep regular appointments with your doctor and ask him or her about your kidney health. Your doctor might recommend a blood and/or urine test to check for CKD. In the U.S., the leading causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other causes include auto-immune diseases, vascular disease, polycystic kidney disease, and other illnesses.

Additionally, the National Kidney Foundation reports that if you are Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, heritage you may be at an increased risk for kidney disease.

4 Factors that Can Increase Your Risk of Kidney Disease

  1. Diabetes
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Heart disease
  4. Family history of kidney disease

What should you discuss with your doctor?  Ask your doctor if you should be screened for CKD. If you have risk factors, your doctor may recommend blood and/or urine screenings to test for kidney disease. If you do have kidney disease, your doctor may recommend a kidney friendly diet with limited sodium, small portions of protein, and other dietary recommendations, depending on your health situation. Your doctor may also recommend getting at least 30 minutes of daily exercise and limiting your alcohol intake. Living a healthy lifestyle, being on the right medications, and managing your overall health conditions are important factors in helping to improve kidney health. Be sure to check in with your doctor annually to discuss your risk of developing kidney disease and what testing is appropriate for you.

How do I prevent CKD? You can take steps to help protect your kidneys by:

  • Asking your doctor about your risk factors for CKD
  • Taking all of your medications exactly as prescribed
  • Asking your doctor about taking any over-the-counter pain medications, vitamins, or supplements
  • Keeping your blood pressure within your goal range
  • If you have diabetes, following your doctor’s instructions about managing your blood sugar
  • Following a kidney-friendly diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking
  • Asking your doctor about vaccinations for your overall health

Resources to explore if you or a loved one has CKD – There are many national resources available to find out more information about kidney disease and how to prevent it from getting worse. These include:

  • The National Kidney Foundation at www.kidney.org.
  • The Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease.
  • Access to community resources. Call 211 or visit www.211.org for help with transportation to medical appointments, caregiver support, financial support services, and healthcare related needs. 

About Michelle Hilton
Michelle Hilton is a registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing informatics from Western Governors University. She has over 13 years of clinical dialysis experience including roles such as charge nurse, preceptor, and dialysis educator. Additionally, Michelle has several years of experience in the dialysis manufacturing industry as a national product educator and SME for blood volume monitoring technology. Currently, Michelle works as a Program Development Analyst for Somatus where she assists in developing clinical programs aimed at positively impacting those who are affected by chronic kidney disease. Michelle is responsible for translating clinical evidence and then building evidence-based research into Somatus’ clinical programs.  Michelle is a member of the American Nursing Association, the American Nephrology Nurses Association, and the National Society of Leadership and Success.

About Somatus

Somatus partners with nephrology and primary care groups, leading health plans, and health systems to provide integrated care for patients with, or at risk of developing, kidney disease. As the market leader in value-based kidney care, Somatus’ vertically integrated clinical services and technology delay or prevent disease progression, improve quality and care coordination, and increase the use of home dialysis modalities and rates of kidney transplantation. The Company is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, and founded by a team of world-class healthcare operators, successful entrepreneurs, and leading clinicians treating kidney disease.


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