March 8th is World Kidney Day, a time set aside to raise awareness about a deadly condition many people don't even know they have.
In addition to senior citizens, kidney disease also strikes millions of young people. For example, Bill Cosby's daughter Ensa died of it last month. She was just 44 years old.
Dr. Crystal Moore, a Chesapeake, Virginia pathologist says one in seven Americans develops chronic kidney disease. She points out most of the time it's caused by high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. These and other risk factors make it difficult, then later impossible, for the two kidneys to do their critical job of filtering blood.
Kidney disease packs a terrible one-two punch. First, there are no signs or symptoms until the disease is so far advanced, the kidneys are only functioning at 10-percent capacity. At this late stage, people start to experience swollen ankles, increased thirst, decreased appetite, blood in the urine and foamy urine. Secondly, doctors say kidney disease cannot be reversed.
The good news is kidney disease can be detected early through simple tests at your doctor's office. The earlier you know you have it, the better your chances of receiving effective treatment.
Dr. Moore recommends these steps to keep your kidneys kicking:
- Check It Out: "It is imperative to have screening tests to determine how well your kidneys are functioning," she explained, "A simple blood test known as the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) can determine how well your kidneys are removing waste from your blood. And a urine screening can test for blood, protein, and your albumin creatine ratio (ACR) to determine if your kidneys are functioning properly."
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: "Choosing lean meats and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables help us maintain our ideal weight," Dr. Moore said, adding, "30 minutes of moderate exercise such as a brisk walk three to five times a week will also help you keep pounds off. Don't forget portion control as a tool in your arsenal for weight loss."
- Take Medications as Prescribed: "Diabetics should monitor and maintain their blood sugar at an acceptable level for long term health. And although you may not feel any symptoms of hypertension, don't forget to take any prescribed medications daily to keep your blood pressure under control," she advised.
- Be Aware of Kidney Toxins: "Stop smoking. Smoking not only damages kidney function but is also a known cancer-causing agent," Dr. Moore said, adding, "Alert your radiologist if you have kidney concerns. The dyes that are used to enhance visibility on some imaging tests can be damaging to kidney function. Certain over the counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen should also be avoided if kidney function is compromised."
Moore said in addition to preserving your own kidney health, don't forget to consider the health of our community. "There are more than 90-thousand Americans waiting for a kidney transplant. Please consider becoming an organ donor. Don't take your organs to heaven with you. We sure can use them down here."