By Thomas Guzzardi, MD | Internal Medicine & Nephrology
World Kidney Day, held annually on the second Thursday of March, aims to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys to our overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems. Initiated in 2006, World Kidney Day focuses on a particular theme each year. This year’s theme is “Kidney Health for All”.
Our kidneys are essential to life and perform myriad functions in addition to the well – known process of filtering and eliminating impurities and by-products of metabolism from the blood. These functions in turn affect almost every organ system of the body. They play a critical role in blood pressure control by maintaining the proper balance of water and sodium, as well as by manufacturing and processing hormones that help regulate blood pressure. Without these processes we can develop heart failure from too much fluid and uncontrolled blood pressure, seizures and confusion when the balance between sodium and water is lost, and ultimately death when unfiltered toxins accumulate. They also process vitamin D which has a great impact on bone health and parathyroid gland function, and generate another hormone that maintains our blood counts and prevents anemia.
Awareness of these vital functions and preventive measures to prevent kidney disease are of paramount importance. We all should have regular visits with our physicians to screen for hypertension and diabetes. Periodic blood and urine tests may detect kidney disease at an early and more treatable phase. Unfortunately kidney disease is often detected late in the process and patients require life- saving dialysis. Dialysis is a chronic process that prolongs life however it cannot replace all the functions of the kidney. Thankfully, advances in kidney transplantation offers many of these patients a return to a normal life. Nowadays is not uncommon for patients to receive a transplant earlier in the process and avoid dialysis.
I encourage you all to learn more about the importance of your kidneys and initiate a healthy lifestyle with regular preventive exams with your health care provider. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure”.