Do you have diabetes or high blood pressure? Are you African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian? Do you have a family member with kidney disease? If you said yes to any of these questions, it is especially important to learn about your kidneys and how to maintain good kidney health.

In talking to people who have had kidney failure and also have diabetes, I have heard it said, “I had never even heard of kidney disease and had no idea how important my kidneys were.”

The blood link

The kidneys filter the blood and rid the body of waste products. They reabsorb needed fluid, electrolytes and minerals, and regulate hormones responsible for red blood cell production and bone health. Some ways to prevent kidney disease include controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.

One of the major ways to prevent kidney disease is by managing diabetes. Goals for management of diagnosed kidney disease include all of the above as well as adjusting medications if your blood sugar is not at goal, avoiding low blood sugar levels, and making needed dietary adjustments.

It is important to become educated in diabetes self-management to decrease your risk of developing kidney disease, blindness, foot or limb amputations, and other complications. People often say that they cannot tolerate blood sugar levels below 200 mg/dL, or that an elevated level is “normal for me.” Intolerance of acceptable blood sugar levels occurs when the levels have been running too high for too long. Avoid symptoms and further complications by slowly lowering your blood sugar to the appropriate level.

“Diabetes is a self-managed disease. That means that choices you make or do not make affect how well you can manage your diabetes.”

Taking control

Diabetes is a self-managed disease. That means that choices you make or do not make affect how well you can manage your diabetes. However, less than seven percent of people with diabetes receive proper education. The best way to learn about diabetes is to find a diabetes educator. Diabetes educators can be nurses, dietitians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who are experts in the art of diabetes education and management. They assist you in setting and achieving goals, problem solving, and establishing healthy behaviors that work for you; ultimately leading to improved health.

Organizations like the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) offer resources on diabetes education and self-management. You can find a diabetes educator near you at diabeteseducator.org. By taking a few steps to manage your diabetes, you can prevent and preserve kidney function for a healthier and happier life.