The combination of diabetes and high blood pressure is killing our kidneys.
As a practicing nephrologist, a physician who specializes in the kidneys, I am concerned by this major health condition causing so much pain, suffering and even death in Harlan County.
The rate of Type 2 diabetes in Harlan County is more than twice the national average.
High blood pressure is also a common local condition, with the incidence of cardiovascular deaths here about 75 percent greater than the national average.
Once damaged by disease conditions such as these, the kidneys can no longer clean the blood as well as they should. This damage causes wastes to build up in the body and act like poisons, leading to other serious health problems, including heart disease and weak bones.
Kidney disease can cause anemia, which makes you feel tired and weak as the number of red blood cells becomes low. Chronic kidney disease eventually can cause kidney failure, a fatal condition, if it is not treated.
If you do have kidney disease, it’s important to be diagnosed early. While treatment can slow down the disease and prevent or delay kidney failure, once the kidneys suffer this kind of damage they cannot be completely healed.
Because chronic kidney disease often develops slowly and with few symptoms, many people with the condition don’t realize they’re sick until the disease is advanced and their blood must be cleaned by a machine, through a process called dialysis.
The best way to avoid kidney disease is with prevention. Here are some tips:
* You should keep your blood pressure below 140/80 mm/Hg, but always check with your health care provider for your appropriate target.
* Watch your cholesterol and keep it in your target range.
* Eat foods lower in sodium. High sodium intake contributes to high blood pressure.
* Eat more fruits and vegetables — and the fresher, the better.
* Stay physically active. There is no better healthy activity than regular exercise.
* If you have been prescribed medications by a physician, take them only as directed. All medicines have side effects that can be made worse by taking them in a way other than directed.
If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, take these steps, too:
* Meet blood sugar targets as often as you can.
* Have an A1c test at least twice a year, but ideally up to four times a year. An A1c test measures the average level of blood sugar over the past three months.
If your blood pressure is high, check it regularly and get it under control to make sure your kidneys remain healthy.
As always, talk to your doctor about medicines and other ways to lower your blood pressure.