March is National Kidney Month—including World Kidney Day on March 10th— a time to raise awareness about serious threats posed by kidney diseases. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the ninth-leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 31 million Americans. Most people with CKD are not aware they have it until very late stages.
Kidney diseases are difficult to detect without diagnostic tests. We can loose up to 90% of our kidney function before noticing any changes. Kidney diseases can be acute or chronic, either appearing and disappearing suddenly (when the cause is treated) or continuing and worsening over time. These diseases can be the result of congenital defects (defects present at birth), or can be the result of environmental factors.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located below the ribcage on either side of the spine. These organs perform the important functions of stabilizing the blood by filtering out impurities, creating red blood cells, and keeping bones strong. The kidneys also store and release waste through urine.
One kidney condition gaining media attention is linked to the consumption of energy drinks. Last month Robert Grim, an Arizona resident, became the 5th person that month to file a lawsuit against Monster Energy, the beverage manufacturer. Grim used to drink four Monster energy drinks a day—the caffeine equivalent of eighteen 12-oz cans of Coca-Cola—before learning that he had stage 4 kidney disease. Over caffeinating can cause permanent harm to kidneys, causing kidney failure and requiring dialysis or kidney transplants.
The 2016 World Kidney Day Theme is “Kidney Disease & Children, Act Early to Prevent it!” Most children suffering from kidney disease will face continual issues into adulthood, including end-stage kidney diseases. Diagnosing early and learning to manage kidney diseases can save lives. Effects of childhood kidney disease are far-reaching, including learning problems, trouble concentrating, and delayed motor and language skills.
Adult risk factors of kidney disease include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Liver diseases
- Heart failure
The World Kidney Day team offers these suggestions to reduce the risk of kidney disease:
Keep fit and active—Exercise reduces blood pressure, a risk factor for kidney disease
Monitor your blood pressure—Blood pressure readings over 140/90 should be discussed with a doctor as a risk factor of kidney disease
Keep regular control of your blood sugar level—Diabetes is one of the most common causes of kidney disease.
Eat healthy and keep your weight in check—Salt intake, in particular, affects kidney functions
Maintain a healthy fluid intake—Consuming a healthy amount of daily fluids (about 2 liters) will help flush toxins from the body and reduce the risk of kidney disease
Don't smoke—Tobacco slows the flow of blood to the kidneys, weakening their functions.
Don't take over-the-counter pills on a regular basis—Common drugs like ibuprofen can cause kidney damage when used regularly.