Chronic kidney disease is more common that you think. But if you’re diagnosed with the condition, there are things you can do to keep your kidneys working longer.

We share the details in two recent episodes of the For Health’s Sake podcast featuring kidney specialists Dr. Michael Eastman and Dr. Andrew Kummer.

What is chronic kidney disease?

“Chronic kidney disease is a lessened ability for the kidneys to clean the blood appropriately. In everyday life, our body creates all sorts of waste normally that our kidneys are charged with getting rid of through our urine,” says Dr. Kummer.

But when kidneys don’t work, waste builds up in the blood causing the body to react in all sorts of different ways. People may experience chronic kidney disease symptoms such as feeling tired or sleepless, itchy skin, the need to pee more often, and urine that’s foamy or has blood in it.

But often, people notice nothing at all.

“There are about 35 to 40 million people in the United States with abnormal function or chronic kidney disease,” says Dr. Eastman, noting that, “The vast majority of those people won’t ever progress to feeling any symptoms where they feel the effects of their kidney disease.”

That’s because it can be hard to notice the difference in kidney function until it drops below 10% of ideal levels. The only way to know if you have kidney disease is to get tested – something that can be done during routine preventive care checkups.

How to keep kidneys healthier for longer

For most people, keeping their kidneys in working order starts with managing health conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure, which can negatively affect kidney function. Other measures include avoiding certain over-the-counter medicines, stopping smoking, losing weight, and keeping an eye on salt and protein intake.

By taking steps to maintain kidney health, people may be able to avoid a kidney transplant or the dialysis treatments that are needed for end-stage kidney disease. So, Dr. Kummer urges people who are newly diagnosed with kidney disease “to be more invested in one’s health. Really taking it seriously like they would any other part of their life – like their job or their family.”

A huge part of this is finding a kidney doctor who will guide you along the way. Every doctor has their own personal style, so if you’re not clicking with your doctor, look for a different one.

“Don’t be shy about finding someone that works for you,” Dr. Kummer says.

Listen to learn: What you should know about chronic kidney disease

Wondering what chronic kidney disease is? During this episode, Dr. Eastman talks about:

  • The basics of kidney disease
  • How your kidneys are “like an exhaust pipe on your car”
  • Diagnosis and what to look for on your test results
  • Types of chronic kidney disease treatment

Listen to learn: What to do about your new kidney disease diagnosis

If you’re newly diagnosed with kidney disease, this episode with Dr. Kummer provides information about what to do next. Topics include:

  • Most common chronic kidney disease causes
  • How managing your other health conditions improves kidney health
  • Lifestyle changes to slow the decline of kidney function
  • How to find a kidney doctor that’s right for you

Talk to your doctor about kidney health

If you think you might have kidney disease or you just have questions about your health, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with kidney disease, look for a specialist that is a good fit for your preferences and needs.