World Kidney Month 2019: No Kidding to Kidneys
World Kidney Month is here. Let's celebrate the kidney community's successes and work towards a more kidney-friendly 2020. The kidneys are one of the most vital organs in the human body because they filter harmful waste from the bloodstream and manage the concentration of fluids in the body. But that is not all! They also contribute to the formation of red blood cells, which transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and produce Vitamin D, an important hormone that promotes calcium absorption.
Because kidneys are so vital for life, anyone with a poorly functioning kidney faces serious challenges. According to the WorldKidneyDay.com Impact Report for World Kidney Day 2019,
"850 million people worldwide are now estimated to have kidney diseases from various causes. CKD causes at least 2.4 million deaths per year and is now the 6th fastest-growing cause of death.1"
Kidney problems are often hidden until severe damage is already done because symptoms, like more or less frequent urination, itching, and fatigue, don't usually appear until later stages. With later-stage kidney problems, people suffer health complications ranging from degradation of the immune system, fluid imbalance, and heart disease to kidney stone formation.
During the End Stage of kidney problems, the kidneys have lost all or nearly all of their functions. The patient needs to consider dialysis, a machine that filters the blood for them, and/or a kidney transplant.
Another thing to consider is the disproportionate rates of kidney problems in African American, Native American, and Hispanic populations. WorldKidneyDay.Org's "CKD in Disadvantaged Populations" explains:
“Hispanic Americans have a 1.5 times greater risk for developing kidney failure than non-Hispanic Americans. ESRD rates nearly 4-fold higher among African Americans in comparison to US Whites, despite similar prevalence rate of early CKD; Hypertension is most prevalent among African Americans (33%) and a major cause of ESRD in this population. Native Americans are about 1.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with kidney failure. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure among American Indians.2"
How can we close this gap and ensure fewer people develop these problems? Education and awareness! Knowing your risk factors, like hypertension, diabetes, and high blood pressure is the best place to start. With these factors in mind, you'll be able to learn how to best take care of your kidneys.
Here is a general list from the American Kidney Fund to get you started:
"Follow a low-salt, low-fat diet. Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Have regular check-ups with your doctor. Do not smoke or use tobacco and limit alcohol.3"
Remember to keep up on your doctor's appointments and to check your kidney function continually. It is, perhaps, the best gift you can give yourself this World Kidney Month.
1 2019 Impact Report. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.worldkidneyday.org/2019-campaign/impact-report-2019/.
2 CKD in Disadvantaged Populations. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.worldkidneyday.org/facts/chronic-kidney-disease/ckd-disadvantaged-populations/.
3 Chronic kidney disease (CKD). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/.