A growing number of people return from a doctor’s visit with the newfound knowledge that their creatinine is elevated – without a clear understanding of what that means. Unfortunately, many are sent away armed only with instructions to get their creatinine retested at a later date for monitoring purposes. While this is a good medical practice, it can leave the patient feeling bewildered and powerless about what their high creatinine level means and if they can do anything about it.
Creatinine is a waste product that forms when creatine is broken down by your kidneys to be eliminated from your body. Creatinine measurements are usually related to the health of a person’s kidneys; but it can be influenced by other physiologic processes. Thus, blood creatinine levels are a good indicator of kidney function. If creatinine is too high, kidney function may be impaired.
In general, normal blood creatinine levels are approximately:
- 0.6 to 1.2 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dl) in adult males
- 0.5 to 1.1 mg/dl in adult females
- Muscular young or middle-aged adults may have more creatinine in their blood than the general population
- Elderly people may have less creatinine in their blood than the general population
- 0.2 or more mg/dl in infants
- 1.8 to 1.9 mg/dl in those with just one kidney
Creatinine levels that reach 2.0 or more in babies and 10.0 or more in adults may indicate severe kidney disease.
High blood creatinine levels can have several different causes, such as:
- Atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus
- Certain drugs can cause abnormal elevations of creatinine (such as vancomycin, gentamicin and cefoxitin)
- Eating large quantities of meat can cause a temporary rise in creatinine levels
Although some people do not have any symptoms associated with high blood creatinine levels, the following signs may indicate a problem with the kidneys’ ability to function:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Low-grade fever
- General feeling of malaise
- Decreased urine ouput
- Face or eye puffiness
- Pain in the mid to low back area
- High blood pressure
Physicians typically monitor creatinine levels through routine blood work and use these results as an assessment tool. Together with other tests, like blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine clearance tests, high creatinine levels can be a red flag for kidney disease.
How to Lower Creatinine Levels
Since it is merely a measurement, there is no direct way to lower creatinine levels. However, experts suggest the following six tips to care for stressed kidneys – which could have a corrective effect on creatinine in the blood:
- Become a vegetarian or dramatically limit meat consumption. Statistics show that creatinine levels may be 10-30 percent higher in people who eat a diet that is very high in meat.
- Avoid creatine supplements. Often used by bodybuilders to increase muscle mass, taking creatine can cause higher than normal creatinine levels.
- Supplement with alpha-lipoic acid. Several sources indicate that alpha-lipoic acid can help prevent damage to the kidneys. A Korean study published in a 2009 edition of the journal Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation found that alpha-lipoic acid decreased cellular damage and inflammation in the kidneys caused by a known kidney toxin. Natural Wellness offers Alpha R-Lipoic Acid, the most potent and effective form of alpha lipoic acid.
- Keep hydrated. Increasing fluid intake can help avoid dehydration and eliminate the possibility of elevated creatinine levels. Water is the best option for keeping hydrated, while beverages with caffeine and carbonation have the opposite effect.
- Lower your blood pressure. Blood pressure leads to kidney damage by damaging the blood vessels that supply the kidneys with fresh blood. These damaged vessels can trigger high creatinine levels in the blood. Eating a diet low in sodium, getting plenty of exercise, and religiously taking high blood pressure medications if prescribed, all help relieve the additional burden that high blood pressure puts on the kidneys.
- Manage diabetes mellitus. Since diabetes also damages the blood vessels in the kidneys, diabetics are susceptible to kidney damage. Thus, diabetics should carefully manage their diabetes with diet and any prescribed medications to reduce creatinine levels and the risk of kidney disease.
Upon learning the basics of high creatinine levels, it is clear that this is a lab value to take seriously. In order to prevent the onset or worsening of kidney disease, those with high creatinine are encouraged to be aware of the symptoms indicating a potential problem and practice the six tips listed above for preserving kidney health.
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