The warm weather is coming and as you tackle your spring cleaning and pack away your winter boots, don’t forget about your kidneys. Why? March is known as National Kidney Month, so it’s a perfect time to take stock of your diabetes treatment plan and make sure that you’re doing what you can to keep your kidneys as healthy as possible.
Here are a few steps that you can take to help ensure that your kidneys keep on working as well as they should, and hopefully prevent any problems.
- Know your kidney numbers. A big part of diabetes management is “knowing your numbers”, such as your A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. There are kidney numbers to be aware of, too, including your:
- Microalbumin: A urine test that checks for very small (micro) amounts of protein called albumin in your urine. The goal is a microalbumin of less than 30 milligrams (mg).
- eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate): A test that tells you how well your kidneys are working. Your healthcare provider will do a blood test to measure something called creatinine, and plug that result into a formula. The goal is an eGFR of greater than 60 milliliters per minute.
- Creatinine: A blood test that shows how well your kidneys are working to filter out creatinine, a substance that forms when muscle tissue breaks down. The goal is a Creatinine of 0.6 to 1.3 mg/dL.
- BUN (blood urea nitrogen): Another blood test that shows how well your kidneys are working. The goal is a BUN of 8 to 24 mg/dL for men and 6 to 21 mg/dL for women.
If you’re not sure of your kidney numbers, talk to your healthcare provider. Find out your results and ask about your own goals and how often these numbers should be checked.
- Aim to keep your blood glucose and A1C levels within target. Controlling your A1C and blood glucose level is important for many reasons, including your kidney health. For most people, the A1C goal is less than 7 percent; for blood glucose, the goal is 70 to 130 mg/dl before meals and less than 180 mg/dl two hours after meals. Your goals may be different, so once again, discuss them with your healthcare provider. If your glucose and A1C numbers are not within your target, work with your diabetes team to help get these numbers into a safe range for you.
- Watch your blood pressure. Most people think of blood pressure in relation to heart health. While that’s true, controlling blood pressure is just as important for your kidney health. For most people with diabetes, the blood pressure goal is less than 140/90, but your goal may be lower. Controlling your weight, limiting your sodium intake, staying active and taking blood pressure medicine (if prescribed) are ways to bring your blood pressure to goal.
- Eat healthfully. The food choices that you make to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy are just as important for your kidneys. Here’s how:
- Cut back on sodium, found in canned soups, lunch meats, salty snacks and fast foods. Go easy on the salt shaker, too.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen and canned (not packed in salt or sugar) are all good choices.
- Limit your red meat intake from beef, lamb, pork and veal. Instead, choose chicken or turkey, seafood and plant protein foods, like tofu and beans.
- Watch your sugar intake. Sugary drinks and other sweet treats can lead to high blood glucose levels and weight gain; both of these are risk factors for kidney problems.
- Watch for warning signs. Call your healthcare provider right away if you think you might have a urinary tract or bladder infection. Signs include pain when urinating, having to urinate more often than usual, bloody or cloudy urine, back pain and chills.