WORLD KIDNEY DAY, which was celebrated on March 13, highlighted the importance of healthy kidneys and how prevention efforts could curb millions of premature deaths associated with kidney disease.
Reports indicate that between 8 to 10 per cent of the adult population have some form of kidney damage but fewer than 1 in 10 are aware of the importance of regular kidney checkups. Of those affected, only 1 in 5 people with kidney failure are ever referred to a specialist.
Most people experience no symptoms until chronic kidney disease is advanced and the prognosis bleak. It is estimated that one can lose up to 90 per cent of their kidney function before experiencing any symptoms.
The most common causes of chronic kidney disease are associated with the skyrocketing rates of noncommunicable diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Kidney disease eventually leads to kidney failure and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.
Tips for healthy kidneys
Keep fit and active. It’s important to keep one’s weight in check through a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen. Both of these are known to prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with chronic kidney disease.
Experts agree that monitoring one’s blood sugar is also important in managing chronic kidney disease. About 50 per cent of people who have diabetes develop progressive kidney damage over time.
Blood pressure-induced kidney disease is another silent condition that can develop for decades with very few noticeable symptoms. One should monitor blood pressure regularly and maintain a healthy diet that is low in salt and unhealthy saturated fats.
Salt-induced high blood pressure is well known but salt intake is also directly linked to kidney disease and eventual failure. Salt intake is similar to other cumulative risk factors such as obesity, tobacco and alcohol use – the longer you abuse it, the greater your risk.
The World Health Organization’s overall goal is to reduce salt intake to no more than 5g per day. This can be achieved by reducing the amount of salt in processed foods items as well as salt added during cooking and at the table. However, most people who eat too much salt don’t realize that as much as 75 per cent of the salt that they eat is already in the food that they buy.
Do not take over-the-counter pills on a regular basis. This may come as a surprise but common drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are known to put excessive stress on the kidneys that can cause eventual kidney failure.
Stay well hydrated. Drinking enough clean water can help maintain optimal kidney function. However, experts have not reached an agreement on a set quantity of water per day as requirements change with many different factors such as one’s overall health status, physical activity levels, and body height and weight.
Do not smoke. Tobacco is known to diminish blood flow to the kidneys – an important indicator of one’s overall kidney health. Research indicates that smoking can also increase the risk of developing kidney cancer by about 50 per cent.
World Kidney Day is a joint initiative between the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations. For additional information, please visit: www.worldkidneyday.org.
Dr Cory Couillard works in collaboration with the World Health Organization’s goals of disease prevention and control.