The kidneys are a pair of extremely efficient organs working overtime to keep toxins out of our blood. Unfortunately because they work so hard they compensate for each others deficiency hence kidney disease often goes undetected until it’s too late.
Once again a “Silent Disease” comes up. Over the years I have learned that when it comes to the human body, silence is not always golden. The list of silent killers, silent thieves and other silent varieties continues unabated and includes; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, glaucoma, type 2 Diabetes and kidney disease.
You may already know that the body can function perfectly with one healthy kidney hence the ability to donate a kidney for transplant. March 11th is World Kidney Day and it’s about time we all come together to raise awareness about kidney disease and emphasize ways of protecting our kidneys to ensure kidney health for everyone everywhere.” This year our focus is on improving the quality of life of people living with kidney disease and it brings to the fore once more the need to look at health and wellness holistically; physical, mental, social, financial, spiritual and even digital health.
Our kidneys specialize in removing wastes and water from the blood, balancing chemicals in the body, releasing hormones, controlling blood pressure, producing Vitamin D for strong healthy bones and even aid in blood production by producing red blood cells.
Our focus today is on chronic kidney disease also known as chronic kidney failure, which is associated with a gradual loss of kidney function. Imagine what happens at an advanced stage when it is unable to perform its functions above.
Initial presentation of kidney disease is non-specific and may include; nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness, sleep problems, changes in urine output, decreased mental sharpness, muscle twitches and cramps, hiccups, swelling of feet and ankles, persistent itching, chest pain, shortness of breath and hypertension that is difficult to control. Remember these may also occur in other diseases so don’t play doctor; get help.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
These conditions or lifestyles may increase our risk of chronic kidney disease;
• Uncontrolled Diabetes
• Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure and other heart diseases
• Diseases of the kidney
o Polycystic kidney disease
o Recurrent kidney infection
o Prolonged obstruction of urinary tract my stones, enlarged prostate or cancers.
• Smoking and excessive alcohol and aphrodisiac consumption
• High Cholesterol
• When a family member has had kidney disease
• Age especially after 65 years
No part of the body is immune to the devastation of Chronic Kidney Disease. Some common challenges are;
• Heart and blood vessel disease
• Fluid retention including flooding your lungs.
• Decreased sex drive or impotence
• Weak bones and hence bones may break easily
• Brain damage
• Decreased Immunity
GOLDEN RULES TO PREVENTING OR MANAGING CONDITION
If you have kidney disease you MUST talk to a dietician. The role of diet can never be over emphasized.
1. Keep Fit and Active
a. “on the move for kidney health”
2. Control Diabetes or blood sugar
3. Monitor and control Blood Pressure
a. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the most common cause of kidney damage
4. Eat Healthy and keep Weight in check
a. Limit protein intake and avoid products with added salt such as salted snacks, canned vegetables and processed meats and cheese.
b. Choose low potassium products such apples, grapes, carrots, cabbage and green beans. Flee from high potassium foods such as banana, orange, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes.
c. Modify your eating pattern to prevent or manage diabetes and heart disease.
5. Maintain a healthy fluid intake
a. Fluids especially water help kidneys clear sodium, urea and other toxins
b. Drink about 2 litres of water a day but remember our needs may vary according to exercise, weather, health conditions, pregnancy, breastfeeding etc.
c. If you have had a kidney stone before then it is important you drink 2 to 3 litres of fluid to prevent new formation.
6. DO NOT SMOKE & (AVOID OR MINIMISE ALCOHOL)
a. Smoking increases your risk of kidney cancers and
b. Also slows flow of blood through the kidneys.
7. Do NOT take over-the-counter medication on a regular basis
8. CHECK your kidney function
a. It is crucial to get medical examinations regularly. If you have any of the risk factors discussed earlier then it is a crime if you don’t. All that may be required is a urine and /or blood test.
TREATMENT FOR END-STAGE KIDNEY DISEASE
In Ghana like many other developing countries less than 8% of those with the condition get optimal management this is because at this stage there are simply two options Dialysis and Kidney Transplant.
Dialysis artificially removes wastes from the blood but the cost of the procedure and the frequency required makes it inaccessible to the majority of people.
Kidney Transplant is also highly specialized, expensive, you will need to take medicines for the rest of your life to avoid rejection of the transplanted kidney and one needs to find a compatible donor.
So take all the necessary steps to protect your kidney now; prevention is certainly important but if you already have kidney disease you need to work with your healthcare team, family and caregivers to make the very best out of life.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/ St Andrews Clinic
Dr. Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “On World Kidney Day and Beyond I invite you to drink adequate amounts of water; water may protect your kidneys but it won’t cure from Chronic Kidney Disease.”
• Kidney Disease – WebMD
• Kidney Health Series – Roche