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The Un-Glamourous Value of Peeing in a Cup

Most people realize they have to contribute a little urine during their annual physical — if you haven’t been asked to do this, then read on. This is definitely something you want to make sure your medical team is requesting.

The history of providing urine samples diabetes for diabetes care

The beauty of your yellow donation is that it holds insight into the health of your heart and kidneys - valuable organs that can be affected by unhealthy blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels (among other things).

Side note: diabetes and urine have a history together. Physicians used to drink their patients’ urine (that’s commitment!) and in those with diabetes, they found it to be sweet. Thus, the name diabetes mellitus (or siphoned honey) was eventually formed to identify this condition.

What can urine samples tell us about our health?

The biggest clue your urine can give about your health is based on the amount of protein (otherwise known as “albumin”) it contains. Typically, protein is not found in large amounts in your urine. The test that measures your protein level is called a urine albumin test. Usually, a level of protein over 30 is cause for concern.

Sometimes this test can be falsely high if you are very dehydrated/recently ill. In which case the levels usually return to normal once you recover. Often, your provider may wait to recheck the levels again in another 3 months. They also may run other types of tests on your urine to get a better picture of your overall kidney health.

An indicator of kidney health

If the level of protein in your urine remains higher than normal for a long period of time, it may be a sign your kidney health is declining. In fact, this can be one of the earliest signs of kidney problems - which is good, because finding things early on typically means you have more options to treat it.1 It is also now considered a sign of heart disease risk as well.2

Identifying and correcting the source of the kidney problem is important. For example, if your blood sugars have been running in unsafe ranges, then making some changes to your treatment plan to get your blood sugars better managed could help your kidneys recover. The same goes for cholesterol or blood pressure. (FYI, these are not the only things that could impact your kidney health).

What happens if my urine sample is abnormal?

Your medical team may have you start using an ACE inhibitor. These types of medications are usually used to lower your blood pressure, but they’ve also been shown to protect the kidneys as well.3 Your provider may also have you switch to a diabetes mediation that has been shown to slow the progression of kidney disease and/or protect your heart. Yes, they’re out there now!

Urine samples are crucial in diabetes care

In short, while peeing in a cup isn’t likely the highlight of your day (or your year), it’s a pretty simple and painless way to get insight into how your body is working. In diabetes, having regular screenings (each year) for protein in your urine is recommended.4 If this isn’t happening, request it from your medical provider. It could just be the difference between you and severe kidney complications. And, hey, your doctor doesn’t even have to drink it anymore!

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