Forgetting to take out the trash and dealing with the odor for an extra week, especially during the hot summer months, is never pleasant. Still, it is temporary, and the minor oversight increases our appreciation for waste management. In the body, the waste management system is the job of the kidneys and routine elimination of waste is serious business.
In America, 30 million adults are living with chronic kidney disease and millions more are at an increased risk for developing the disease. When the kidneys are forced to work too hard, damage can occur to the filters that keep waste from entering the blood stream. High blood sugar is one of the primary conditions that puts extra stress on the kidneys and can also harm other organs including the heart, blood vessels, nerves and eyes. Over a period of time, this stress causes the filters and, eventually, the kidneys to quit functioning completely.
“Hypertension and diabetes are the two leading causes of chronic kidney disease and the number of people living with these health conditions is on the rise,” explained Denise Kolba, RN, program manager for Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) – SD. “Self-management education programs, including Better Choices, Better Health South Dakota, provide the support and tools to help individuals make healthy lifestyle choices to manage their health and reduce their risk for complications.”
Facing a variety of healthcare issues, including hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, several years ago Kimberly McGuirk had reached a point where she struggled to walk more than a few feet. Enlisting the help of a physical therapist, she got a walker and was soon walking on her own. She enrolled in the Better Choices, Better Health diabetes self-management education workshop to take the next steps toward a healthier lifestyle.
“I am eating better by making better choices. I am drinking more water and I started Wii bowling for exercise,” explained McGuirk. “By walking more, I was able to take less insulin every day. I used to have blood sugar numbers in the 300s and was able to get my blood sugar down to 123.”
“Blood sugars can be controlled using diet and exercise,” shared Kolba, who led the Better Choices, Better Health workshop McGuirk attended. “Most individuals know they should lose weight, eat right, manage stress and quit smoking, but maintaining healthy habits long-term is challenging. I have seen workshop participant successfully use the tools, increase their confidence and make the healthy changes needed to create better health outcomes.”
With lifestyle changes, early detection and treatment, the progress of kidney disease can be slowed or even stopped. The Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is the best estimate of kidney function and is calculated using results from blood creatinine test, age, body size and gender. A GFR of 60 or lower for three months or more indicates chronic kidney disease.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommend the following 10 steps to manage kidney disease:
- Control your blood pressure
- Meet your blood glucose goal if you have diabetes
- Work with your health care team to monitor your kidney health
- Take medicines as prescribed
- Work with a dietitian to develop a meal plan
- Make physical activity part of your routine
- Aim for a healthy weight
- Get enough sleep
- Stop smoking
- Find healthy ways to cope with stress and depression
“Be around positive, supportive people,” McGuirk emphasized. “Keep trying! The results will be worth lots in the long run.”
Great Plains QIN encourages individuals with diabetes and other chronic diseases to the get knowledge and skill to improve their quality of life. Our content experts support self-management education programs and partner with the healthcare community to provide technical assistance to achieve better health care, improved health, safer care and lower healthcare costs.