by Stephen Roberts PhD
By filtering your blood, kidneys remove waste products and water, creating urine. They also assist in regulating blood pressure, making red blood cells and absorbing calcium. According to the Centers for Disease Control CDC more than 10% of Americans have some level of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), which indicates a continuing loss of kidney function. The older we get the more likely it is that we will experience CKD. The latest figures available indicate that 26% of people over 60 have moderately reduced kidney function, or worse. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) our kidneys contain one million glomeruli made up of blood vessels which filter the blood. Over time diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions may damage the blood vessels so that the kidneys lose some of their effectiveness in filtering, resulting at times in CDK. 33% of people with diabetes and 20% of individuals with high blood pressure have the disease. Other risk factors include a family history of CKD, cardiovascular disease and obesity. If the kidneys are failing, a kidney transplant or dialysis can be used to provide kidney function. According to the Mayo Clinic the length of wait time for those needing a kidney transplant depends on the level of compatibility with the donor, the length of time on dialysis and the probability of survival after the transplant. Some people may have to wait for years while others find an appropriate donor in several months. Dialysis is a process that replicates the function of the kidneys by eliminating waste and excess water from the blood. Dialysis is helpful but does not achieve the same result as the kidneys, requiring patients to be careful about what and how much they eat and drink. Medications are also required. The National Health Service in England has some advice about how to decrease the risk of kidney disease.
- Manage underlying conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy diet including five servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- Decrease alcohol consumption
- Exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes each week
- Be careful in your use of drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin – they can cause kidney disease.
At the West Central Avenue office of the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio, Holly Hoagland-Fojtik the Executive Director, described the role of the Kidney Foundation in the community as having two main functions. The first is educating the public about CKD and the second is helping people financially by offsetting costs for medications, transportation, nutritional supplements and medical equipment. Holly’s main advice to prevent serious kidney disease is to get regular screenings (along with diabetes and high blood pressure screenings) since CKD does not provide early indications of damage. Early detection of the disease allows an individual to get an early start on improving kidney health.