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The Intersection of Diabetes, Chronic Kidney Disease and Heart Failure

Patient News Heart Failure Awareness 365

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You may not think of your kidneys and heart as connected, but the renal and cardiovascular systems are closely linked. This also means that conditions affecting the kidneys or heart, including diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and heart failure (HF), are interconnected. 

High blood sugar levels, especially in people with type 2 diabetes (T2D), can cause damage to the blood vessels and nerves that supply blood to and control the functions of the heart. Over time, this damage can put stress on the kidneys and heart muscle, causing those with diabetes to be at a higher risk for developing CKD and HF.  In fact, approximately 1 in 3 adults with diabetes has CKD, and between 25-40 percent of people with T2D will develop heart failure.

The kidneys are vital organs that support crucial functions including filtering toxins from the blood, regulating fluid levels, making vitamin D to strengthen bones, helping control blood pressure, and increasing the production of red blood cells. CKD, the irreversible, gradual loss of kidney function over time, affects an estimated 37 million—or 1 in 7—Americans and is referred to as a ‘silent disease’ as it often presents no symptoms in its early stages. For those living with diabetes, it’s important to partner with a doctor to monitor your ‘kidney numbers’ [estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and urine albumin-creatinine ratio (uACR)], which can be markers of CKD. Early action has been shown to help slow progression of disease, reduce the risk of worsening kidney function and delay, or even prevent, dialysis.

In addition to difficulties regulating glucose levels and fatty acids, diabetes can cause abnormalities in the body’s metabolic process, which may lead to HF—a chronic, long-term condition that worsens over time. Advanced age, duration of diabetes, insulin use, and presence of coronary artery disease, also may increase the likelihood of diagnosis. Similar to the management of CKD, having open conversations with a doctor about lifestyle adjustments and potential treatment options is essential to reducing the risk of worsening HF, hospitalization and cardiovascular death.

When living with diabetes or an associated condition like CKD or HF, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and hesitant to ask questions. But with increased awareness of how these conditions intersect, you’ll be better equipped to take an active role in managing your health. Speak with your doctor to learn about comprehensive treatment and management strategies that are best tailored to your individual needs. Knowledge is power when it comes to advocating for a healthy lifestyle. 


Helpful Resources

Visit the HFSA Patient Hub to explore tools and resources to help patients stay healthy while living with heart failure. 

View Heart Failure Awareness 365 activities to stay up-to-date on tips for healthy living for people living with heart failure.