March 9, 2023 is observed as World Kidney Day. Chronic kidney disease has been recognized as a leading public health problem in the world today. We catch up with DR AMIT DIAS from the Department of Preventive Medicine, GMC, highlights 10 ways to be kind to your kidneys. On Women’s Day we also found out what puts women at a higher risk of developing kidney disease and what can be done to prevent it….

What is Chronic Kidney disease?
Kidneys are essential for filtering excess wastes and fluids from your blood, which are removed in the form of urine. When the kidneys are damaged, they lose this ability. The gradual loss of kidney function leads to chronic kidney disease (CKD). In the early stages, it may go unnoticed; however, as the condition and damage progresses, waste can build up in your body and make you feel sick. A person can present with a range of symptoms like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, swelling of the feet and legs, problems urinating, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, etc, depending on the extent of the condition. Once kidneys fail, dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary to stay alive.

How big is the problem of kidney disease?
Kidney disorders are a major public health problem in the world today. They affect 13.4% of people in the world. There are an estimated 4.902 – 7.083 million people with end-stage kidney disease needing renal replacement. It is important to note that many of those with Kidney disease do not know that they have it and present late for confirmation by doctors.
Approximately 90% of those with kidney disease don’t know they have it. It is estimated that around 1 in 3 adults with diabetes and 1 in 5 adults with high blood pressure may have kidney disease.
Kidney disease is more common in women (14%) than men (12%). But for every 2 women who develop end-stage kidney disease, 3 men’s kidneys fail.

You said more women are likely to have kidney disease. Is there a reason for it?
Yes, CKD affects around 195 million women around the world and causes 600,000 deaths each year. It is the 8th leading cause of death in women. There could be several reasons that could explain the higher prevalence in women.
Women are more likely to get urinary tract infections which can damage the kidneys. Women are more likely to get what is called systemic lupus eErythematosus (SLE) which also damages the kidneys. 90% of this autoimmune disease occurs in women. Pregnancy-related complications can lead to kidney damage. They are also less likely to access health care early and will suffer in silence which will worsen the damage – and this is especially so in the poorer, not so developed in healthcare countries like India.

What can we do to keep our kidneys safe?
Though medical science has improved tremendously over the years concerning renal care, prevention remains better than cure. We need to understand the risk factors and make efforts to avoid them. Here are 10 ways you can be kind to your kidneys.

  1. Keep your diabetes (sugar levels) under control
  2. Lower your blood pressure to less than 140/90
  3. Quit smoking
  4. Drink water, stay hydrated and stay away from alcohol.
  5. Know your family history for kidney problems
  6. Watch your medications — certain antibiotics and pain medications can cause kidney damage. Never take un-prescribed medications (this includes herbal preparations)
  7. Maintain a healthy weight
  8. Eat healthy food
  9. Exercise and make physical activity a routine
  10. Get your kidneys tested — speak to your doctor, you will have to do it more frequently in case you are at risk.

Why are kidney diseases on the rise?
The global increase in kidney diseases is mainly due to changing lifestyles which have led to an increase in the prevalence of diabetes mellitus, hypertension and obesity. Generally speaking living longer than ever before but necessarily more healthily also plays a role. However, in poorer countries the causes can be bad sanitary practices leading to infections as also trusting unproven herbal remedies. There are toxins in many living areas too.

Any message for our readers?
We need to be kind to our kidneys too! Do not neglect your kidneys. When we were fighting the covid pandemic we saw how people with kidney disease on dialysis who were finding it difficult to get access to facilities for dialysis. World Kidney Day this year prepares us for such unexpected events. Those at high risk and those living in endemic regions (Canacona for instance) need to be even more vigilant.
Learn and encourage others to prevent kidney disease and ensure kidney health for all!

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