Kidneys are the silent partner to good health! We can live quite well with only one kidney and indeed, some people live a healthy life even though born with one missing. Kidneys play a major role in maintaining your general health and wellbeing but are not usually thought of as essential to a healthy life. But while bones can break, muscles can waste away and the brain can sleep without risk to life, if both kidneys fail, as happens in end stage kidney failure, bone, muscle or brain cannot carry on.
Kidney disease is called a silent disease as there are often no warning signs. More often kidney function worsens over a number of years.
There are certain risk factors which may make you more likely to develop kidney disease. Symptoms may appear early or later, but you need to know what type of disease you are looking at, and what you can do to prevent its taking over your life.
There are some issues that are not within your power to control, like family history and age. But there are other risk factors which definitely can be controlled. This may enable you to slow down some diseases, or possibly even prevent them. As an example, controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure may help your kidneys to work in a normal way for longer than they would without a conscious dietary attempt to help.
First, it is useful to understand the risk factors you have for kidney disease. Then you can work with your nephrologist to delay kidney failure, or maybe prevent it altogether. There are some kidney disease risk factors that you can change.
- Nearly forty percent of new dialysis patients already have diabetes, which makes this the most rapidly growing risk factor for kidney disease. Type 2 diabetes is already the #1 cause of failure of the kidneys, and is responsible for over one third of all new dialysis cases.
- You don't have to develop kidney disease just because you have diabetes. Moderate blood sugar and blood pressure readings can help prevent kidney disease. Symptoms will alert you if your body is edging toward kidney disease, but don't wait that long to act. If you keep a tab on your blood sugar and blood pressure, you can lower your risk for kidney disease.
- High blood pressure puts a great deal of stress on your blood vessels, all around your body, which includes those in the kidneys. This is the second leading cause of kidney failure. Exercise and weight control, along with medications, can slow or stop the progression of kidney disease tokidney failure.
- Take blood pressure medications religiously, as they were prescribed. If you have problems with the medications - for example, if they make you sick - tell your nephrologist so you can try a different medication.
- If you have scarring from a malformed urinary tract or past infections, this can force urine to back up into your kidneys and cause damage there. Plaques of cholesterol or blood clots can block blood flow to the kidneys and cause damage, as well. Repetitive kidney stones can block your urine flow and damage the kidneys. You can ask your nephrologist if you are a candidate to have treatments that repair blockages, to help save kidney function in your body.
- If you overuse pain killers like aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, discontinue their use and ask your nephrologist what you can take instead.
Stay updated about current treatments and procedures that can help keep your kidneys healthy and functioning for years to come.