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Canadian Med Center

Risk Factors for Chronic Kidney Disease

Wednesday 13 March 2024
Chronic Kidney Disease
7 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Diabetes and Chronic Kidney Disease

II. Hypertension and Chronic Kidney Disease

III. Additional Risk Factors

IV. Conclusion

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a serious health condition that affects more than 10% of the world's population. [1] It is characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function over time, reducing the ability to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. [2] Understanding the risk factors associated with CKD is crucial for prevention and early intervention.

This article will explore key risk factors for CKD, focusing on diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, and aging.

Diabetes and Chronic Kidney Disease

 A doctor checking the blood sugar level of a patient

When we eat foods containing protein, our bodies break it down into waste products that need to be filtered out by the kidneys. The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessels with small holes that act like sieves. As blood flows through, small molecules like waste squeeze through the holes and become part of the urine. Larger molecules like proteins and blood cells don't fit through the holes and stay in the blood where they’re needed. [3]

In diabetes, high blood sugar levels make the kidneys work too hard filtering blood. Over many years, this strains the kidneys' filtering system. The holes begin to leak, allowing protein to escape into the urine. Depending on how much protein is found in the urine, doctors can determine the stage of kidney disease: [3]

  • Small protein amounts indicate that kidney disease is caught early. Several treatments can prevent further kidney damage.
  • Large protein amounts indicate advanced kidney disease. Without treatment, end-stage renal disease typically follows. [3]

Over time, the excessive workload causes the kidneys to lose their filtering capacity, causing waste to build up in the blood. Eventually, the kidneys fail completely—this is called end-stage renal disease. At this point, treatment options include a kidney transplant or dialysis to filter the blood. [3]

Preventing Chronic Kidney Disease with Diabetes

Developing kidney disease is, unfortunately, a common complication of diabetes. However, the good news is that not everyone with diabetes will go on to experience kidney problems. There are a few key factors that influence your risk:

  • Genetics: Some people are more prone to kidney issues due to their genetic makeup. If you have a family member diagnosed with kidney disease, you have a higher chance of developing it. In this case, getting regular checks-ups to catch kidney disease in the early stages is important.
  • Blood glucose (sugar) management: Keeping your blood sugar levels within target ranges is one of the most impactful things you can do to protect your kidneys. When blood glucose is high for prolonged periods, it can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys over time.
  • Blood pressure: High blood pressure is very hard on the kidneys and a major risk factor for kidney disease in people with diabetes. Controlling your blood pressure protects the kidneys. [3]

The bottom line is that the more you can manage your diabetes well, the lower your chances of developing chronic kidney disease. Research shows that maintaining recommended blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of protein in urine by a third. For those who already have protein in their urine, good blood sugar control cuts the risk of further progression in half. [3]

Hypertension and Chronic Kidney Disease

A doctor checking the blood pressure of a patient

Your kidneys filter waste and excess fluid from the blood using a dense network of blood vessels. A large volume of blood flows through the kidneys at all times. [4]

Over time, high blood pressure that isn't controlled can hurt the blood vessels around the kidneys. It can make them narrow, weak, or stiff. Damaged blood vessels can't deliver enough blood to the kidney tissue. [4]

  • Damaged blood vessels reduce blood flow and oxygen. Tiny nephrons inside the kidneys filter wastes and toxins from the blood. They depend on a steady supply of blood from capillaries. High blood pressure weakens these capillaries, and less blood reaches the nephrons.
  • Impaired kidneys can't regulate blood pressure. Healthy kidneys respond to a hormone called aldosterone to help manage blood pressure. But kidney damage from hypertension prevents this from happening. This leads to a downward spiral as more blood vessels become blocked and stop functioning. [4]

Preventing Chronic Kidney Disease with Hypertension

High blood pressure can gradually damage the kidneys over time, leading to chronic kidney disease. While there is no cure, making healthy lifestyle changes and properly managing your blood pressure can help prevent further kidney damage. This allows you to maintain a higher quality of life and reduce complications. [5]

  • Nutrition: Follow a heart-healthy diet, like the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. This diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. It limits red meat, salt, sweets, and added sugars. Making these adjustments to your eating habits can significantly reduce blood pressure.
  • Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation - no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Avoid binge drinking.
  • Exercise: Being physically active for at least 150 minutes per week can lower blood pressure and relieve heart strain. Brisk walking, swimming, or cycling are great options.
  • Stress: Find healthy ways to manage stress, as it causes blood pressure spikes. Try relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing.
  • Weight: Carrying excess weight puts extra pressure on the heart and blood vessels. Losing even a modest amount of weight can reduce your blood pressure.
  • Smoking: Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. Both can damage blood vessels and raise the risk of high blood pressure. [5]

Additional Risk Factors

While diabetes and hypertension are the leading causes of chronic kidney disease, other factors can also cause kidney damage over time. Understanding these additional risk factors can help you take steps to protect your kidney health.

Heart Disease

There is an important connection between the heart and the kidneys. When one organ is unhealthy, it impacts the other. Heart disease puts extra strain on the kidneys, while kidney disease increases the workload on the heart.

  • When the heart can no longer pump blood efficiently, blood congests within the heart, and pressure builds up in the vein that connects the heart and kidneys. This congestion reduces the oxygen-rich blood that reaches the kidneys, damaging them.
  • When the kidneys become impaired, the body's systems that regulate blood pressure go into overdrive to try and increase blood flow to the kidneys. The heart must pump harder against this higher pressure, which strains the heart over time. [6]

The takeaway is that kidney and heart disease tend to go hand in hand. Taking care of one can help take care of the other. Regular checkups, a healthy diet, exercise, and medication adherence can keep both organs healthy. [6]


Extra weight can strain many body parts, including the kidneys. When someone is overweight or obese, it increases their chances of developing kidney disease for a couple of crucial reasons.

  • Increased risk for diabetes and hypertension: Obesity is closely linked to the development of diabetes and hypertension, which are the leading causes of kidney disease. By achieving a healthy weight, you can help prevent or delay the onset of these conditions and lower your chances of kidney damage.
  • Additional strain on the kidneys: Excess weight burdens the kidneys, forcing them to work harder to eliminate waste products beyond their normal capacity. This extra strain increases the likelihood of developing kidney disease over time. [7]


As we get older, our kidneys age along with the rest of our bodies. Unfortunately, aging kidneys are more prone to disease and damage. [8]

According to researchers, over half of all people 75 and older suffer from some form of kidney disease. Compared to younger individuals, seniors over 60 are more likely to develop kidney problems. [8]

The good news is that kidney disease can be detected early through simple screening. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that anyone over 60 get screened annually for kidney disease. A urine test can check for protein in your urine, an early sign that your kidneys may be struggling. A blood test can measure your kidney function. [8]


Chronic kidney disease is a serious but often preventable condition. By understanding the risk factors associated with chronic kidney disease, you can prevent disease progression through early intervention.

For more information on this condition, visit our dedicated chronic kidney disease blog.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.