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January 24, 2018 | Nephrology • Value-Based Care
Chronic kidney disease is the gradual failure of the kidneys over time. Symptoms of kidney disease can mimic those of other conditions, and early stages of the disease are often asymptomatic (producing or showing no symptoms). Because of this, many people are not diagnosed until after their kidneys have been significantly impaired.
Like with most conditions, treatment of chronic kidney disease is more effective in its earlier stages, and healthcare costs increase as the disease progresses.
A study published in 2013 reviewed diagnoses and insurance claims of over 4000 Medicare patients to estimate the cost of chronic kidney disease. Annual spending for patients with stage 1 chronic kidney disease was $9200, $7900 for stage 2, $9300 for stage 3 and $18,600 for stage 4.
Patients with chronic kidney disease can prevent some of these costs by properly managing their disease
High blood pressure can be damaging to your kidneys. Work with your doctor or care management team to develop a plan to keep your blood pressure in check. Aim for a blood pressure goal below 140/90 mm Hg. Simple lifestyle choices, like regular physical activity, stress management or a healthy diet, can improve your blood pressure. You may even want to invest in an at-home blood pressure monitor. Talk to your doctor about how to use it and ensure you get the most accurate results.
A healthy weight not only reduces strain on the kidneys but also decreases your risk of other health conditions like coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes. The National Institution of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) offers a Body Weight Planner to help you create a plan and stay on track. Be sure to discuss your plan with your healthcare provider.
Your diet plays a large role in chronic kidney disease management. Your dietitian can help you create a meal plan to maximize your kidney health, prevent or delay complications caused by kidney disease and improve other aspects of your health like high blood pressure or diabetes. A kidney-friendly diet includes low-potassium foods, limited protein consumption, and the right fruits and vegetables.
Exercise may lower your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, reduce stress and improve your overall health. Before starting an exercise plan, talk to your doctor about how much physical activity you should be getting. A good goal is 30 minutes of activity each day. If you do not exercise regularly, start out small. The NIDDK gives some great ideas to help you stay active if you are overweight or have not exercised in a while.
Patients who don’t take their medication as directed are at an increased risk of complications, hospitalizations and more healthcare expenses. One study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that not sticking medication plans results in 125,000 deaths, 10 percent of hospitalizations and billions of dollars in health expenses each year. If you are having a hard time remembering to take your medicine or do not like the side effects, talk to your doctor to see if there is a way to simplify your medication routine or adjust your dosage.
It is not uncommon for patients to be diagnosed with both chronic kidney disease and diabetes. If this is the case, it’s important to be aware of your glucose levels and keep them in your target range. Your doctor will use an A1c test to determine your average glucose level over time. You should aim for 7 percent or less. Use these tips to improve your A1c.
Learning about a chronic diagnosis can be disheartening, and depression is common among those with chronic illnesses. Find healthy ways to cope by staying active, take time to pamper yourself, connect with others who have similar illnesses, set goals and create a routine, talk with someone you trust or pick up a new hobby. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
While you are managing chronic kidney disease, it’s important to avoid substances that can harm your kidneys like:
Alcohol, smoking and tobacco products: Smoking can lead to conditions that are harmful to your health and your kidneys. Alcohol and other illegal drugs can also damage your kidneys.
Dehydration: Illnesses resulting in vomiting, diarrhea or fever can cause dehydration, which is dangerous for kidney health. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids and avoiding diuretics like soda, coffee, tea and alcohol.
Certain over-the-counter medications: Pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen can cause kidney damage when taken in large quantities. Other medicines may be harmful to your kidneys as well. Make sure to discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor, including over-the-counter medications and supplements.
Managing a chronic condition can be difficult, but you are not alone. Your doctors and loved ones are part of your care team and they want you to be as happy and healthy as possible. If you need help managing your condition, speak with your doctor.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.