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Solutions for the global kidney crisis

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World Kidney Day is turning into a global phenomenon.  On 14 March 2013, medical professionals, government officials, the general public, celebrities and patients will take action in local communities around the world. Past World Kidney Days have seen more than 600 events in well over 90 countries.

World Kidney Day is a joint initiative between the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations. They report that fewer than 1 in 10 people are aware that regular kidney checks are a vital health tool in the prevention and treatment of kidney disease.

Vast prevention efforts are underway to curb the millions that die prematurely of heart attacks and strokes associated with kidney disease.  Being proactive is the key as 1 in 5 people with kidney failure are only referred to a specialist when their kidneys have already failed and their prognosis is poor.

Kidney disease becoming more common

It’s been reported that between 8 and 10 percent of the adult population have some form of kidney damage. Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are the most common causes of kidney disease in the aging populations of both developed and developing countries.

The first negative health outcome of undetected kidney disease is the risk of developing progressive loss of kidney function that can eventually lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. The second negative health outcome is the high risk of premature death from associated cardiovascular disease.

Steps for healthy kidneys

A healthy lifestyle is the most important step to reduce the occurrence of kidney damage throughout life.  It’s important to keep one’s weight in check through a healthy diet and exercise regimen.  Both of these are known to prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with kidney disease.

Knowing one’s blood pressure is now considered vital regardless of their perceived health status.  High blood pressure is a silent condition that can develop for decades with very few noticeable symptoms.  Unfortunately, high blood pressure is commonly diagnosed when one goes to the hospital for a different health condition altogether.

High blood pressure is known to accelerate kidney and heart failure. One should monitor blood pressure regularly and maintain a healthy diet that is low in salt and unhealthy saturated fats.

Experts agree that it’s critical to monitor one’s blood sugar level as well. About 50 percent of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage, so it is important for people with diabetes to have good blood sugar control.  Diabetics should have regular tests to check their kidney functionality.

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 tablets are known to put excessive stress on the kidneys and can cause eventual kidney damage.

Drink a lot of healthy, clean water as it helps to maintain optimal kidney function. Experts have not reached an agreement on the ideal quantity of water but traditional wisdom has long suggested drinking between 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day.

Do not smoke.  Cigarette smoking slows the blood flow to the kidneys that will decrease their ability to function properly.  Research has concluded that smoking can increase the risk of developing kidney cancer by about 50 percent.

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Dr Cory Couillard is an international health columnist that works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and global health care education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.

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Twitter: DrCoryCouillard


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