Understanding the Relationship Between Diabetes and Hypertension

September 10, 2019

Hypertension and diabetes often occur together — and both can be damaging to the kidneys.

People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing hypertension, and vice versa. That makes sense, as the two conditions share many of the same risk factors — obesity, smoking, lack of regular exercise, and a diet high in sodium and fats. In fact, a connection was noted in a 2012 study, which reported that between 50 percent and 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes also had high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Despite the crossover, detection and diagnosis of the two conditions is very different. Because it rarely displays symptoms, hypertension is usually diagnosed during a routine medical exam. Patients with elevated blood sugar, on the other hand, notice an increase in urination, a general feeling of fatigue, blurred vision, and excessive thirst.

A blood pressure reading of 130-139 over 80-89 classifies as stage 1 hypertension. Meanwhile, anyone with a glucose level of 126 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) or higher has diabetes. Because of how each condition affects the arteries, both elevate a patient’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

The Effect of Diabetes and Hypertension on Blood Vessels

Hypertension develops when blood vessels narrow and harden, increasing the pressure within the arteries as blood pumps through them. Heightened blood pressure in the arteries can be especially damaging to the kidneys because these vital organs clean the blood of unwanted substances while circulating needed nutrients, such as protein. This helps maintain a healthy balance of water, salt, and minerals in the body and, importantly, regulates blood pressure.

But if the blood enters the kidneys with greater than normal force, the kidneys work harder to filter the blood. Over time, this could lead to chronic kidney disease and other serious health problems.

Diabetes also harms blood vessels. Someone with diabetes cannot process glucose normally, leading to a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. Blood with an excessive amount of glucose prevents the vessels and kidneys from functioning properly.

A person with diabetes should have their blood pressure checked at least four times a year by a doctor. For someone with both conditions, it’s recommended that they check their readings with home monitors and report the findings to their doctor.

Preventing and Treatment Diabetes and Hypertension

Maintaining a proper weight, staying active, and eating a healthy diet may prevent the onset of diabetes and high blood pressure, and are especially important lifestyle habits for people who already have hypertension, diabetes, or both.

In addition to medication, people with hypertension and diabetes can make lifestyle changes that lower blood pressure and manage blood glucose levels. These would include:

Exercising more frequently. Moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming, for 150 minutes each week aids in managing blood pressure and diabetes. Patients who haven’t exercised in a while should consult with their doctors before starting a workout program.

Following the DASH Diet. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet) emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean meats like chicken and fish. On this diet, people with hypertension and diabetes eat less red meat and processed foods high in salt, sugar, and fats. Limiting alcoholic drinks is also helpful, since alcohol contributes to weight gain that could raise blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Giving Up Cigarettes. Smoking has been linked to hypertension, heart disease, and kidney disease. What’s more, smokers with diabetes are also at a higher risk of retinopathy, an eye disorder that could result in loss of vision.

We Treat Hypertension and Kidney Disease

The physicians and staff at Southern Massachusetts Dialysis Group focus solely on the kidneys, providing treatments and consultations to patients with kidney disease and hypertension. If you’d like to discuss ways to treat your high blood pressure and reduce your chances of diabetes, make an appointment with us today.

Can Home Remedies Help Kidney Patients?

July 10, 2019

Herbal supplements and other therapies may be harmful to patients with chronic kidney disease. On the other hand, following a kidney-friendly diet is the best home remedy of all.

People living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) may be tempted to try home remedies to alleviate symptoms or slow the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, these supplements may actually be harmful, especially if they contain certain minerals that impair kidney function.

The best at-home remedy for CKD patients, particularly those undergoing dialysis, is a diet designed to promote good renal function. A nephrologist and a nutritionist can help patients choose foods that enhance kidney health, but here are some at-home remedies that should be avoided.

Don’t Try This At Home

Managing CKD comes down to avoiding potentially damaging minerals and other substances that may end up doing more harm than good. In short, herbal supplements and marijuana may be risky for CKD patients.

Herbal Supplements. Marketed as a cure for a variety of ailments, herbal supplements are not considered a viable treatment for CKD. That’s because many of these supplements contain minerals like potassium and phosphorus that, when taken in high doses, hinder renal function.

For example, feverfew, Shepherd’s Purse, and sassafras contain high levels of potassium. Likewise, phosphorus is found in American ginseng, bitter melon, and sunflower seeds. Creatinine supplements should also be avoided, since an elevated level of creatinine indicates CKD.

Herbal supplements may also interfere with prescription medications a CKD patient may take to control chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Before taking any supplement, CKD patients should consult with their doctors to understand what effect the product may have on their kidney function.

Medical Marijuana. CKD patients frequently suffer from nausea, chronic pain, and low appetite. To counteract those symptoms, many turn to medical marijuana. However, a recent study concluded that marijuana use actually accelerates the progression of kidney disease. Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York noted the study focused on subjects who smoked marijuana. The same results may not be seen in those who used a vaporizer or ingested the marijuana, though that’s yet to be determined. 

Eat Right — at Home. To keep their kidneys working properly, CKD patients should follow a kidney-friendly diet. A nutritionist can develop a meal plan that includes foods beneficial to the kidneys. In general, a diet low in sodium, protein, potassium, and phosphorus support renal health. 

Protein. While our bodies need protein to maintain our overall health, too much protein forces already damaged kidneys to work harder to process the nutrient through our system. A nutritionist can recommend how much protein a CKD patient can consume, but foods such as poultry, fish, eggs, and red meat should be limited on kidney-friendly diet. Instead, substitute those items with lower protein foods like bread, vegetables, fruits, rice, and pasta.

Potassium. Potassium strengthens our muscles, yet an excess of potassium can be harmful to kidneys. Therefore, foods high in potassium — bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and beans — should be avoided. In their place, CKD patients can eat cauliflower, white bread, grapes, summer squash, and strawberries.

Phosphorus. Phosphorus, a mineral, supports bone health. However, in patients with CKD, an excessive amount of phosphorus in the blood stream leads to brittle bones. To keep phosphorus levels low, CKD patients should eliminate whole grain bread, dark-colored colas, bran cereals, and nuts from their diet. Better choices are corn or rice cereals, unsalted popcorn, and light-colored sodas and lemonade.

Sodium. A high-sodium diet raises blood pressure, which, in turn, causes kidney damage. In addition to ditching the salt shaker, CKD patients must avoid processed meats (bacon, sausage, and lunch meats); canned soups and vegetables; and salty snacks. Frozen meals typically contain a high level of sodium, so CKD patients should carefully check the label to determine how much sodium is in the package. 

Caring for Your Kidneys

Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group specializes in CKD and helping patients maintain renal function. Our staff advises patients on the best therapy for their individual needs and can provide guidance on dietary choices. CKD is a serious disorder, but with the proper medical treatment, patients can thrive for many years. Contact our office today for an appointment.

How Do the Kidneys Work?

June 13, 2019

Your kidneys are vital in maintaining good health. Do you know how they work?

Most people are aware they must take good care of their heart and lungs to maintain their wellbeing. But do they realize how important another organ is in keeping us healthy? Our kidneys perform a vital function in removing waste products from our bodies. If they malfunction or are damaged, our health will be seriously compromised.

Located below the rib cage in the middle of the back are two small, bean-shaped kidneys that are part of our urinary tract. These organs remove waste and extra fluid by filtering a half-cup of blood a minute. The waste flows through the ureters attached to the kidneys, where it eventually collects in the bladder. When we urinate, the waste leaves our body.

To recognize the importance of our kidneys, we need to understand how they work. Properly functioning kidneys ensure good health. On the other hand, when our kidneys are impaired, our health suffers.

How Kidneys Work

Inside each kidney is a network of nephrons that filter out waste materials through blood vessels known as glomerulus. Once the glomerulus scrub the blood, the fluid travels to a tubule where it separates the substances our bodies need, such as protein, from the unwanted ones flushed away in the urine.

This filtering mechanism balances the mixture of water, salt, and minerals in our bodies so that our muscles, nerves, and tissues operate as they should. In addition to filtering out harmful substances, our kidneys are involved in the production of red blood cells and maintaining normal blood pressure.

Chronic medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes interrupt this process. Sugar that remains in the blood impair the nephrons. High blood pressure, meanwhile, damages the blood vessels in the kidneys. Polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder, also prevents the kidneys from functioning properly.

Monitoring Your Kidney Health

A blood test and urine analysis measure two important markers that assess kidney health: creatinine and protein levels. Abnormal ranges of those substances could indicate weakening kidney function.

When we’re active, our muscles break down. This is a normal occurrence, but it does produce a waste product called creatinine. In healthy kidneys, creatinine is removed through the blood. When kidneys cannot push creatinine out through the urine, it builds up in the bloodstream and could be a sign of poorly functioning kidneys.

Our kidneys manage the level of protein in our bodies as well. As our kidneys filter out waste, they keep much-needed protein within the body. However, when the kidneys cannot separate protein from harmful waste, excess protein shows up in the urine. This condition — proteinuria — signals the kidneys are not operating at full strength.

If tests show high levels of protein and creatinine, a kidney specialist will schedule you for regular testing and put you on a low-sodium, low-protein diet. You should also control hypertension and diabetes through medication to maintain good kidney function.

In its early stages, chronic kidney disease sometimes has no overt symptoms; that’s why frequent testing of kidney function is vital in detecting the condition. Common symptoms of chronic kidney disease include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and diminished appetite. Late-stage chronic kidney disease is treated either through dialysis or an organ transplant.

Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

Here at Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group, we specialize in keeping your kidneys healthy. We treat all forms of kidney disorders and hypertension. Call us today for a consultation and evaluation of your kidney function. Your kidney health is important to us.

Learn the Early Signs of Kidney Disease

April 16, 2019

Learn the Early Signs of Kidney Disease

Identifying the signs and symptoms of kidney disease is a critical step for early detection.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, many of the more than 30 million Americans with kidney disease don’t even realize they have it. Symptoms are often overlooked or attributed to more minor causes. It’s not until the disease has progressed and symptoms are too obvious to ignore that many decide to see a doctor.

If left undiagnosed, kidney disease can result in kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD is irreversible and must be treated through dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Most people are born with two kidneys, fist-sized organs that filter toxins and excess fluid from our blood each day. This process keeps our nerves, muscles, and other bodily tissues functioning smoothly. When kidneys become diseased, toxins start to build up. This can trigger a range of symptoms, including:

Increased Fatigue: Excess toxins may make you feel more tired, inhibit your ability to focus, and turn every-day activities, like lifting groceries out of the car, into strenuous endeavors. Iron deficiencies like anemia are also common side effects of kidney disease that can result in feelings of fatigue.

Dry Skin: Shifting mineral levels within the blood and changes in the sweat and oil glands may occur as a result of kidney disease. This lack of proper nutrients and moisture leads to flaky, itchy skin.

Difficulty Sleeping: Patients with kidney disease might experience Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) due to a lack of iron. These sudden, uncontrollable leg twitches often occur when the body is lying down and can make it extremely difficult to get to sleep. Poorly functioning kidneys can also cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is not only disruptive, but potentially dangerous if left untreated.

Changes in Urine: Fluid and toxins filtered from the blood by your kidneys are discarded through roughly two quarts of urine each day. When your kidneys start failing, you may feel the need to go to the bathroom more often and notice significant changes in the quality of your urine. Weak kidneys allow blood cells and protein to seep through filters, turning urine slightly red and foamy. This loss of protein can also lead to puffiness around the eyes.

Cramping and Swelling: Sodium retention is a common side effect of kidney disease, and can result in swelling, particularly around the feet and ankles. Electrolyte imbalances are also prevalent and may cause muscle cramping throughout the body.

Poor Appetite: A buildup of toxins in the bloodstream can significantly decrease your hunger levels.

Next Steps if You’re Experiencing Symptoms

The symptoms associated with kidney disease should not be ignored, especially if experienced in conjunction with one another or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of kidney disease. Early detection is a critical part of kidney health and ESRD prevention.

Schedule an appointment with the Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group today if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and think you may be at risk of developing kidney disease.

How to Avoid Painful Kidney Stones

March 16, 2019

How to Avoid Painful Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can cause intense discomfort, but there are some steps people can take to prevent them, including staying hydrated, managing their weight, and altering their diet.

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form when urine becomes concentrated. This causes the minerals to crystallize, which forms tiny pebbles in your urinary tract. They are incredibly painful, but also very preventable and treatable.

Kidney stones can lead to increased rates of kidney disease or cause unpleasant infections. However, when they’re identified and treated in a timely fashion, they’re not likely to cause lasting damage. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of kidney stones as soon as possible.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Kidney Stones

When stones first form in the kidneys, you likely won’t experience any symptoms at all. As the stones travel from the kidney to the bladder through the ureter, however, they can get caught and cause a problematic block. Although the most common symptom is pain in the abdomen, other symptoms that often accompany a lodged kidney stone include:

  • Sharp, cramping pain in your groin or on your backside
  • Extremely dark urine due to blood
  • Reduced amount of urine excreted
  • Burning sensations and pain during urination (for men, there may be pain at the tip of the penis)
  • A persistent need to urinate
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you have any of these symptoms coupled with a fever or chills, you may be developing an infection and should seek medical attention.

The Leading Causes of Kidney Stones

Dehydration: By far the most common cause of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body. Stones tend to form more often in people who are chronically dehydrated. When you don’t have enough water in your body, you have less fluid to keep salts dissolved, which leads to concentrated urine.

Calcium build-up: Although there are many kinds of stones, 80% of them are calcium stones, which occur when calcium builds up in the bladder and increases the rate of mineral crystallization in urine.

Obesity: Obesity is another leading cause of kidney stones. Being overweight can change your urine’s acid levels, which leads to an increased risk of stone formation.

Treatments and Prevention

Although there’s not a one-size-fits-all defense strategy to prevent kidney stones from forming, there are some easy things you can do in your day-to-day life to ward off potential stones.

Drink More Water: The recommended daily dose of water is at least 3 liters each day. Try measuring your water intake for a day or two to get a sense of what that amount looks like. It usually comes out to about 8 glasses of water. Drink that much and you will greatly decrease your risk of developing stones.

Improve Your Diet: Eat less sodium and calcium. Sodium can cause both urine calcium and cystine to be too high, which greatly increases your risk of stones. A few foods you may want to eat less of are cheese, canned soup and vegetables, salty snacks like chips or pretzels, and bread or other baked goods. Try replacing these foods with more fruits and fresh vegetables, which offer potassium, fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants. These nutrients can help keep stones from forming.

Consider Medication: For some, simply eating less sodium and drinking more water is not enough to prevent kidney stones. Various medications like thiazide diuretics or potassium citrate can help lower sodium in the body and uric acid in urine. Likewise, certain over-the-counter vitamin supplements can be very helpful as long as you consult with your primary doctor first.

Even with the most disciplined prevention methods, kidney stones can still form in the body. If and when they do, call a doctor for advice on how to pass them. You can usually treat them in the comfort of your own home.

In some cases, hospital treatment might be needed so you can get rehydrated via an IV and receive anti-inflammatory medication. In the most dire of situations, surgery may be necessary, although this is not very common.

To learn more about kidney stone prevention and treatments, get in touch with the Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group. Our doctors will be happy to talk with you about methods of prevention or treatment options if you already have kidney stones.

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