UAE doctors to diabetics: Lowering blood sugar cuts risk of kidney disease

Ismail Sebugwaawo /Abu Dhabi Filed on March 11, 2021
Reuters file photo

One in four diabetics could develop kidney disease.

Around 25 per cent of diabetics eventually develop kidney disease — and to prevent it, patients must pay attention to their lifestyle, UAE doctors have said.

Marking World Kidney Day on Thursday, medics from the Mubadala Health’s Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC) have stressed that the key to beating ‘diabetic nephropathy’ involves lowering one’s blood sugar, regulating blood pressure, and taking medications religiously. Diabetic nephropathy is a serious complication, a form of chronic kidney disease associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

“The best way to prevent or delay diabetic nephropathy is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and treating the underlying cause of diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Dr Mustafa Ahmed, consultant nephrologist at ICLDC.

Diabetic nephropathy, he explained, affects the kidneys’ ability to remove waste products and extra fluid from the body.

“To assess how a patient is managing diabetes, we give them a glycated haemoglobin test, also known as an HbA1c test, which assess blood sugar control over the past two to three months. Even if patients bring the result down from nine per cent to seven per cent, for example, they will reduce their risk of kidney disease by 50 to 70 per cent.”

Chronic kidney disease often has a few signs or symptoms in the early stages, Dr Ahmed said. “They might not become apparent until kidney function is significantly impaired. For this reason, as soon as patients are diagnosed with diabetes, their kidneys should be checked. Initially, this can be done with simple blood and urine tests.”

The doctor said it is vital to catch chronic kidney disease as early as possible, as it could progress to end-stage kidney failure, which could be fatal if not treated with dialysis or a transplant.

Other factors that can reduce the risk for kidney disease are maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.

How to take care of your kidneys

Consultant nephrologist Dr Bahaa Shaath has explained the impact of various nutrients on the kidneys:

>> Protein: Most people, whether they have chronic kidney disease or not, can get the daily protein they need by eating two 85g servings of meat or meat substitute (about the size of a deck of cards). However, when kidney function declines to the point where dialysis becomes necessary, patients should include more protein in their diet because dialysis removes large amounts of protein from the blood.

>> Fats: While everyone needs dietary fat, Dr Shaath stresses that some fats are healthier than others and people with chronic kidney disease are at higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke, so they should avoid unhealthy fats like trans-fats and opt for healthier monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and nuts.

>> Sodium: Salt causes the blood to hold onto fluid, raising blood pressure and putting a strain on the heart and kidneys. People at risk of heart attacks or strokes should not eat more than 1,500g of sodium daily. They should watch out for items such as processed foods, which often contain large amounts of salt, and should read all food labels carefully.

>> Potassium: Problems can occur when blood potassium levels are either too low or too high. Damaged kidneys allow potassium to build up in the blood, causing serious heart problems.

>> Phosphorous: Damaged kidneys allow phosphorus, a mineral found in many foods, to build up in the blood. Too much phosphorus in the blood pulls calcium from the bones via diverse mechanisms involving vitamin D, calcium and parathormone, making the bones weak and likely to break, Dr Shaath explained.


Ismail Sebugwaawo

A professional journalist originating from Kampala, Uganda, Ismail is a happy father with strong attachment to family and great values for humanity. He has practiced journalism in UAE for the past 13 years, covering the country's parliament (FNC) and crimes, including Abu Dhabi Police, public prosecution and courts. He also reports about important issues in education, public health and the environment, with a keen interest in human interest stories. When out of reporting duties, he serves the Ugandan community in Abu Dhabi as he wants to see his countrymen happy. Exercising and reading are part of his free time.

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