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preventing kidney disease

Proacive approach

proactive approach to health

overview and introduction

It is always smart to take a thoughtful approach to your health, and invest in good nutrition and physical activity/exercise - but if you know that you are at risk for kidney disease, it can be especially advantageous for you to take care of your body. Living a healthy lifestyle reduces your chances of developing diseases that put a strain on your kidneys.


Even if you feel like you're doing a good job of keeping fit, it is important to remember that kidney disease often doesn't present symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Because the disease can be advancing without your knowledge, if you know you're at risk for kidney disease (click here for risk factors), it can also be a good idea for you to initiate conversations with you doctor regarding kidney health, and to be tested for the disease regularly.


The most important thing you can do to keep your kidneys safe is to take care of your body. Here are some simple ways you can live a healthy lifestyle:   

  • Keep fit and active.  Keeping fit helps to reduce your blood pressure and therefore reduces the risk of Chronic Kidney Disease.


  • Keep regular control of your blood sugar level. About half of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage, so it is important for people with diabetes to have regular tests to check their kidney functions.


  • Monitor your blood pressure Although many people may be aware that high blood pressure can lead to a stroke or heart attack, not enough know that it is also the most common cause of kidney damage.


  • Eat healthy and keep your weigh in check. Eating, healthy nutritional meals can help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with Chronic Kidney Disease.


  • Drink alcohol in moderation. For most people, having one or two occasional drinks won’t have any serious effects on the kidneys, but excessive drinking certainly will. If you are regularly drinking past the point of moderation, you may be causing slow, long-term damage to your kidneys that can't be repaired. 

  • Maintain a healthy fluid intake.  Consuming plenty of fluid helps the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body which, in turn, results in a “significantly lower risk” of developing chronic kidney disease.


  • Do not smoke Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it impairs their ability to function properly. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50 percent.


  • Avoid taking over-the-counter pills on a regular basis. Common drugs such non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are known to cause kidney damage and disease if taken regularly. Such medications probably do not pose significant danger if your kidneys are relatively healthy and you use them for emergencies only, but if you are dealing with chronic pain, such as arthritis or back pain, work with your doctor to find a way to control your pain without putting your kidneys at risk.

To learn more about the role diet, nutrition, and exercise can play in kidney health, please visit our national office's Kidney A - Z Health Guide below. 

screening for kidney disease

simple testing

You can begin testing your kidneys' health through some very simple, non-invasive screenings. If you think you may be at risk for kidney disease, remember: it is important to not delay getting screened, as early detection and treatment can slow or prevent the progression of kidney disease.


Here is some information on screening kidney health:

Screen: Urine Test (ACR)


This urine test, which is called an ACR (albumin-to-creatinine ratio), screens urine for albumin, which is a type of protein. (Learn more about albumin). Your body needs protein. But it should be in the blood, not the urine. Having protein in your urine may mean that your kidneys are not filtering your blood well enough, which can be a sign of early kidney disease. If your urine test comes back “positive” for protein, the test should be repeated to confirm the results. Three positive results over three months or more is a sign of kidney disease.

Screen: Blood Test


Your blood can be tested for a waste product called creatinine. Creatinine comes from muscle tissue. When the kidneys are damaged, they have trouble removing creatinine from your blood. Testing for creatinine is only the first step. Next, your creatinine result is used in a math formula with your age, race, and sex to find out your glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Your GFR number tells your healthcare provider how well your kidneys are working. Check with your doctor about having a GFR test. (Learn more about GFR).

Screenings and Your Doctor


It is usually very simple to get screened for kidney disease through your physician or clinic. Tests can often be performed alongside a routine physical. If you'd like to talk with your doctor about kidney disease, here are some helpful things to discuss during your next visit: Tips for Check-Up

Attend a Free NKFI Screening


Prior to visiting your doctor, if you would like to attend a free kidney screening event hosted by the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, you may explore upcoming KidneyMobile dates below.

Simple Testing

attend a free health screening

Throughout the year, the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois hosts a series of free kidney health screening events. Conducted from our one-of-a-kind KidneyMobile, events are planned all across the state of Illinois.

diabetes and hypertension

Anyone can be diagnosed with kidney disease, but there are several health and lifestyle factors that may increase your risk. The two most notable risk factors for kidney disease are: diabetes (usually Type 2, or adult onset diabetes, although children with Type 1 are also at risk), and high blood pressure (also called hypertension). These two disorders are responsible for up to two-thirds of CKD cases, and are often intertwined with a diagnosis.

Diabetes: Overview


Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is essential to your health, as it is an important source of energy for the cells that comprise your muscles and tissues, and is is the main source of fuel for your brain.


Diabetes occurs when your body does not make enough of a hormone called insulin (or when it cannot use insulin properly). When your body fails to properly produce insulin your glucose levels rise, potentially resulting in a condition called hyperglycemia.


There are several forms of diabetes (the most common of which are Type 1 and Type 2). If diabetes is not managed, it can cause damage to many parts of your body - especially the kidneys, heart, blood vessels, eyes, feet, and nervous system.

Diabetes and Kidney Disease


Diabetes patients run an elevated risk of developing kidney disease due to the elevated glucose in their blood. As your kidneys clean your blood, it can become damaged over time by excess blood sugar, potentially leading to kidney disease.


To learn more about the relationship between kidney health and diabetes, please visit our national office's, Kidney A - Z Health Guide by clicking the link below. 

High Blood Pressure: Overview


Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels as your heart pumps blood around your body.  When you have high blood pressure, it means the pressure is too high.  High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading cause of kidney disease, heart attacks, and strokes.


Most people with high blood pressure do not have any symptoms.  You can have high blood pressure for years without knowing it.  For this reason, it is often called a “silent killer.” The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured.


High blood pressure can cause problems in many organs in your body, including your kidneys and your heart.

High Blood Pressure and Kidney Disease


High blood pressure can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys.  Over time, this can lead to kidney disease or kidney failure. Keeping your blood pressure in control lowers your risk for these problems.  That is why it is important to find out if you have high blood pressure, and get treatment for it.


To learn more about the relationship between kidney health and high blood pressure, please visit our national office's, Kidney A - Z Health Guide by clicking the link below. 

Causes and Risk Factors

risk factors for kidney disease

It is always important to remember that chronic kidney disease can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to diabetes and high blood pressure, some other diseases, conditions, lifestyle factors, and family backgrounds that may put your at risk for kidney disease include: 

List of Factors


  • Glomerulonephritis

  • Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease

  • Inherited diseases such as polycystic kidney disease

  • Infections

  • Obstructions (caused by problems like kidney stones, tumors or enlarged prostate glands; in men) 

  • Kidneys can be damaged by overuse of some over-the-counter pain killers and by taking illegal drugs.

  • Being a smoker

  • Obesity

  • Being African-American, Native American or Asian-American

  • Family history of kidney disease

  • Abnormal kidney structure

  • Older age

Additional Reading​​


If you would like to find more information about risk factors for chronic kidney disease, please visit our national office's Kidney A - Z Health Guide by clicking the link below:

NKFI kidney health resources

The information shared on this website has been reviewed by staff at the New York City headquarters of the National Kidney Foundation. Please note: material contained here are intended solely for reference. This material does not constitute medical advice; it is intended for informational purposes only. If you feel you need professional medical care, please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

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