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Kidney health begins with knowledge

The kidneys mainly produce urine and excrete waste produced by the body. It aids in controlling the body’s chemical balance and blood pressure.

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Last 10 March 2022 was World Kidney Day, a global campaign that aims to increase education and awareness about kidney health. This year’s theme was “Kidney Health for All — Bridge the Knowledge Gap to Better Kidney Care.”

Read on to learn more about your kidneys and how to take care of them, by guest author Dr. Alrick Escudero, one of our fellows-in-training in Nephrology at Makati Medical Center.

Chronic non-communicable diseases are the leading causes of mortality and disability worldwide. At least one out of 10 people worldwide has kidney disease. If left unrecognized and untreated, this can lead to various complications and, eventually, death. Based on recent statistics, the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) has projected kidney disease-related health conditions to be the fifth leading cause of death by 2040.

The kidneys mainly produce urine and excrete waste produced by the body. It aids in controlling the body’s chemical balance and blood pressure. It also aids in keeping our bones healthy and producing red blood cells.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive loss in kidney function over months to years. Each kidney has millions of tiny filters, called nephrons. If nephrons are injured, kidney function decreases. For a time, the remaining healthy nephrons can compensate to maintain adequate function. However, if the cause of damage is persistent, it continues to destroy more nephrons until kidney failure ensues. When the remaining functional nephrons are unable to filter the toxins in the blood, it may require one to undergo a form of dialysis in order to survive.

CKD is more often a sequel of uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure. Other less common causes include: Inflammation (glomerulonephritis), recurrent urinary tract infections and obstruction (from kidney stones or an enlarged prostate). CKD also increases the risk of premature death secondary to heart attacks and strokes.

The majority of individuals with early-stage CKD are often asymptomatic and underdiagnosed. Kidney disease usually progresses silently and presents with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, weight loss and water retention at the end stage of the disease.

Early detection and appropriate management is vital in the prevention of disease progression and complications. The primary indicator of kidney function is the measurement of the blood levels of creatinine, which is produced by the muscle breakdown and excreted through the kidneys. If kidney function declines, the ability to filter creatinine is reduced and accumulates, increasing blood creatinine levels. A urinalysis is also used to check for the presence of protein, an early indicator of kidney damage.

There are eight golden rules to follow that can help keep your kidneys healthy.

1 Keep fit, be active. Maintain an ideal body weight.

2 Eat a healthy diet. Reduce your salt intake. The recommended sodium intake is five to six grams of salt per day.

3 Check and control your blood sugar. About half of those who have diabetes develop kidney damage, but this is preventable if the diabetes is well-controlled.

4 Check and control your blood pressure. The normal adult blood pressure level is 120/80. If your blood pressure is persistently elevated above the normal range, consult your doctor.

5 Take appropriate fluid intake. Normally eight cups, approximately two liters (quarts) per day for a healthy person in a comfortable climate. Fluid intake may need to be adjusted if you have kidney, heart or liver disease.

6 Don’t smoke. Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys and increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50 percent.

7 Don’t take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory/pain-killer pills regularly. Common pain medications such as ibuprofen and mefenamic acid may damage the kidneys if taken too often,

8 Get your kidney function checked if you have one or more high risk factors such as:

• Diabetes
• Hypertension
• Obese
• Family history of kidney disease

By observing these rules and working closely with your doctor, patients at risk for kidney disease or those with CKD can decrease the risk for complications and live long and healthy lives.

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