Kidney disease is a severe public health issue which is often ignored by most of us. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people are suffering from chronic kidney disease in India. The main reason is lack of awareness about Chronic Kidney Disease. It is a silent killer that is asymptomatic at the initial stage and is detected at advanced stage when dialysis or transplant is the only solution. Since awareness is the key to preventing such fatal consequences check out these 5 steps to guard your kidneys against this silent epidemic.
Step 1: Important Facts
The bean-shaped organ in our body performs multiple functions to maintain homeostasis in the body. It does multiple functions other than just removing wastes from the body that we often overlook. Some of the vital functions are enlisted below-
- Regulates fluid levels in the body
- Releases hormone that regulates blood pressure.
- Releases hormone that promotes production of red blood cells.
- Helps in maintaining strong bones by activating vitamin D
- Keeps a healthy balance of important minerals (sodium, potassium, phosphorus).
Do you know when the kidney functions are impaired you can be at risk of several diseases like kidney failure often termed as End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), Cardiovascular diseases, stroke, neuropathy, anaemia, weak bones and many similar complications that can put your life at risk. Recent studies state that malfunctioning kidneys can cause sleepless nights, hair loss and even memory loss.
Step 2: Evaluate your risk quotient
Are you aware that certain conditions can increase your chances of acquiring kidney disease? Amongst all diabetes and hypertension are the leading causes of kidney disease. Obesity and cardiovascular diseases are not far behind in the queue. If you run a family history of kidney failure, hypertension and diabetes even then you are at risk. Additional risk factors include-
- individuals at or above 60 years of age
- low birth weight
- prolonged usage of OTC (Over-the-counter) drugs like painkillers
- kidney stones
- autoimmune disorders
- chronic UTI.
After assessing your risk, the first and foremost step is to shift to a healthy lifestyle that would prevent unnecessary load on your kidneys.
Step 3: Recognize the symptoms
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a silent killer and affects the kidney beans silently without any visible symptoms till 70% of the kidney functions are already impaired. Hence, initially people are asymptomatic which can be misleading. Pay heed to these trouble signs-
- Fatigue and weakness
- Painful urination
- Foamy urine
- Pink and dark colored urine
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination especially at night
- Puffy eyes and swollen face
- Fluid retention that causes ankles, abdomen and feet to swell.
Step 4: Get tested
If you think that you fall in the risk group or you have any of the symptoms do not delay and get tested immediately. I recommended individuals above 30 years of age to check their kidney functions once every year. Elderly people above 55 years of age or with comorbidities like hypertension and diabetes should check their kidney functions every 6 months.
GFR- Glomerular Filtration Rate measures how efficiently the kidneys are filtering the blood. Serum creatinine levels are measured and GFR is calculated.
If your number is above 90 then there is nothing to worry, anything between 60-90 means kidney functionality should be monitored and numbers below 60 for 3 consecutive months indicate kidney disease. In my awareness programs I always promote an idea that every birthday before cutting your birthday cake, get your health checked and do not miss on your GFR score so that you can celebrate your health.
Step 5: Stay healthy
There are certain vital things that everyone should know and do which includes
- knowing your family history well
- following a balanced diet
- staying hydrated
- maintaining daily physical activity
- Keeping a watch on your body weight
- Avoid any addictions or substance abuse
- Limit and avoid OTC drugs unnecessarily
- Avoid excessive protein consumption
- Reduce your salt intake
If you have any comorbidities like blood sugar or hypertension or both it is important to monitor that regularly and maintain it within the limits. Do not skip your medicines. Get your annual flu shots as well.