Chronic kidney disease and diet, we now know, are inextricably linked. And its prevalence in the U.S. and across the globe continues to rise.

In fact, 1 in 7 U.S. adults has chronic kidney disease, according to the CDC.

Despite this staggeringly high statistic that says 15% of our kidneys are slowly failing, an arguably even worse statistic exists.

Over 90% of those with chronic kidney disease don’t know they have it.

No wonder this disease is often called the “silent killer.” Meanwhile, few of us even know what chronic kidney disease is.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Your kidneys play an important role in the digestive system, filtering blood and excreting waste products from the body.

As the name suggests, chronic kidney disease is characterized by the loss in function of your kidneys. Also present in the name is the term chronic. In contrast to acute kidney disorders, chronic kidney disease persists over a longer period of time.

For a true diagnosis of chronic kidney disease, then, it is recommended to take consecutive diagnostic tests over the course of three months. If they all show consistent signs, you will likely be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

If left unchecked, this disease can lead to end-stage renal disease (or, “kidney failure”). The complete loss of kidney function is a major, life-threatening condition that typically requires a kidney transplant.

And many reach this stage unaware of their condition.

Worse, chronic kidney disease often accompanies other diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In fact, diagnostic markers for chronic kidney disease are also good markers for cardiovascular health, and many individuals with chronic kidney disease face cardiovascular health problems before end-stage renal disease.

And similar to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the risk of developing chronic kidney disease is exacerbated by poor dietary habits.

Chronic Kidney Disease and Diet?

Your diet plays a large role in your risk profile for chronic kidney disease.

Obesity is one risk factor that exists for cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as chronic kidney disease. And the rates of obesity continue to climb globally along with chronic kidney disease.

Nutrition and chronic kidney disease is also an important combination, as evidenced by the elevated risk caused by hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly half of all Americans. One major risk factor for hypertension is a high sodium diet.

See how much sodium the average American consumes, daily.

So in addition to overall dietary patterns, specific nutrients are important for those looking to slow down or reverse signs of decreasing kidney function.

Clinical guidelines suggest those with chronic kidney disease adopt the DASH diet in order to reduce hypertension. In addition, a Cochrane review has shown that a low protein diet may help delay end-stage renal disease.

Learn how to track your protein intake.

Thus, in addition to lowering your weight and lowering your blood pressure, specific nutritional requirements may help too.

A Healthy Diet for Life

Chronic kidney disease and diet exemplify the link between long-term eating patterns and disease.

Diets shouldn’t be a short-term fix. A healthy diet for life will significantly reduce your risks for developing diseases like chronic kidney disease. And your nutrition can be the source of delaying or stopping the progression of the disease too.

If you are worried you may have chronic kidney disease (you are obese, have high blood pressure, are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease), it would be prudent to schedule an appointment with your doctor to learn more.

Otherwise, make sure to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and move regularly. Your health will thank you!

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