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Protect Your Kidneys

How well do you know the health of your kidneys? According to the National Kidney Foundation, 30 million Americans have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).  Most of these people, however, aren’t even aware they have CKD. This is because most people with CKD have no symptoms!

The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine below the rib cage. They play an important role in keeping people healthy. Kidneys filter and clean the blood by removing waste products and excess water, which exit the body as urine. In addition, kidneys regulate the body’s blood pressure, chemical balance, and help keep bones healthy. The kidneys also secrete a hormone which stimulates bone marrow’s production of red blood cells.

However, as people age, kidney filtration begins to slow down. After age 40, kidney function decreases slightly each year. Risk factors for kidney disease include a family history of kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. In fact, heart disease and kidney disease often go hand in hand; each is a major risk factor for the other disease. Early detection and treatment are crucial in preventing both kidney failure and heart complications.  We have to “Protect the Kidneys to Save the Heart!”

Diagnosis and Treatment

Two simple tests can diagnose CKD- a blood test and a urine test.

  • A blood test measures the level of creatinine, a waste product of muscle that the kidneys excrete. In a person with reduced kidney function, creatinine builds up in the blood. A formula is applied to determine the eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate). The eGFR identifies how well the kidneys are filtering waste products.
  • Impaired kidneys may leak a protein, called albumin, into the urine. A urine test can detect albumin.

Left untreated, kidney disease can lead to kidney failure. If that occurs, a person will require dialysis (a treatment that replaces some of the kidneys’ functions) or a kidney transplant (an operation that replaces a diseased kidney with a healthy one) to stay alive.

“The biggest myth is that patients do not think anything can be done about their kidneys until it’s time or close to the time that they may need dialysis,” says Dr. Michael Rosen, a nephrologist at CareMount Medical. “Often, your kidney function or impairment cannot be reversed so the goal is preservation of what function you have and protection against the possible complications of having kidney impairment”.