Chronic Kidney Disease, Diabetes, and Heart Disease
Last updated: September 2023
It may be hard to imagine that your heart health or risk of diabetes is connected to your kidneys. They might seem like separate systems, but they impact each other.1
Your kidneys are your body’s filters, removing toxins from your blood. Your heart is responsible for pumping that blood throughout the body. And diabetes can put stress on many of your organs, including your heart and kidneys.1
How are CKD, diabetes, and heart disease connected?
Your body’s organs all work together to keep you healthy. If one organ is damaged, it can put more stress on other organs and systems. This can harm those other systems over time. CKD, diabetes, and heart disease all impact your body differently:1-3
- In CKD, your kidneys cannot properly filter toxins and waste from your blood.
- Heart disease is an umbrella term for several heart conditions. It increases your risk for heart failure or heart attacks.
- In diabetes, your pancreas does not make enough insulin or cannot use insulin properly. Our bodies use insulin to process the sugar in our blood.
Here is an example scenario: A person with diabetes has high blood sugar. High blood sugar can damage the kidneys. This means that over time the kidneys stop filtering waste as well. This can lead to CKD. When a person has CKD, their heart has to work harder to get blood to the kidneys. This puts strain on their heart and can lead to heart disease. CKD also can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease.1,2
Almost half of all people with heart failure have CKD. Also, 16 percent of people with heart failure have both diabetes and CKD. About 40 percent of people with diabetes develop CKD. This makes diabetes the leading cause of CKD.3
What increases your risk for CKD, diabetes, and heart disease?
CKD, diabetes, and heart disease share many of the same risk factors. These risk factors include:1-3
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Being over a healthy weight
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Not being physically active
- Family history
Research also shows that lower-income people and communities of color are more likely to develop CKD, diabetes, or heart disease. This is likely because these groups often have less access to healthcare, healthy food, and other necessary resources.4
How to prevent CKD, diabetes, and heart disease
Because CKD, diabetes, and heart disease have similar risk factors, they also can be prevented with similar steps. Some ways to prevent all 3 conditions include:1,2
- Try to keep up an exercise routine. Aim for at least 150 minutes total of exercise per week if your doctor tells you it is safe to do so.
- Ask your doctor if you should be monitoring your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Try to keep these levels in a healthy range.
- If you are a smoker, try to quit.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and avoid processed foods. Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian. They can help you build a diet plan that will keep you as healthy as possible.
- Get a flu shot every year. This does not directly prevent CKD, diabetes, or heart disease. But if you have any of these conditions, you are more likely to have complications if you get the flu.
Is exercise an important part of your CKD management?