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    Respect the Kidneys

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | February 28th, 2021

    Respect the Kidneys

    When I saw my friend a little over a year ago and asked how he was doing, he told me that he was on dialysis.  I was surprised, I did not know he had kidney disease.  He told me that his problem occurred due to many years of not having his blood pressure under control. My friend loves to travel, however travel comes with a lot of planning now that he is on dialysis. I am not sure if he will ever want to travel outside of the country again.

    I do not believe that we give the kidneys the respect that we should until it is too late.  March is National Kidney Month and I was blown away by reading the following on the CDC website,  Chronic Kidney Disease by the Numbers:

    • About 37 million US adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease and most are undiagnosed. A lot of people do not know they have kidney disease until it is too late.
    • Kidney diseases are the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.
    • 48% of people with severely reduced kidney function and not on dialysis are not aware of even having chronic kidney disease.
    • Every 24 hours, about 340 people begin dialysis treatment for kidney failure.
    • Chronic kidney disease is more common in blacks than any other group of people.
    • In the United States, diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading cause of kidney failure, representing about 3 out of 4 new cases.

    National Kidney Month reminds us of how important the kidneys are to us. The National Kidney Foundation describes the kidneys as powerful chemical factories that perform the following functions:

    • Remove waste products from the body
    • Remove drugs from the body
    • Balance the body’s fluids
    • Release hormones that regulate blood pressure
    • Produce the active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
    • Control the production of red blood cells – these are the cells that send oxygen throughout the body

    For National Kidney Month, The National Kidney Foundation would like each of us to Take Five for Your Kidneys. We can do 5 simple things to protect our kidneys:

    1. Get tested! Ask your doctor for an ACR urine test or a GFR blood test annually if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, are over age 60, or have a family history of kidney failure.
    2. Reduce NSAIDs. Over the counter pain medicines, such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), may alleviate your aches and pains, but they can harm the kidneys, especially if you already have kidneys disease. Reduce your regular uses of NSAIDs and never go over the recommended dosage. Examples of NSAIDs are Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil.
    3. Cut the Processed Foods. Processed foods can be significant sources of sodium (salt), nitrates and phosphates, and have been linked to cancer, heart disease and kidney disease. Try adopting the DASH diet to guide your healthy eating habits.
    4. Exercise Regularly. Your kidneys like it when you exercise. Regular exercise will keep your bones, muscles, blood vessels, heart and kidneys healthy. Getting active for at least 30 minutes a day can also help you control blood pressure and lower blood sugar, which is vital to kidney health.
    5. Stay Well Hydrated. Staying well hydrated helps your kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from your body. Drinking plenty of water, and avoiding sugary beverages, is also one of the best ways to avoid painful kidney stones. Those with kidney problems or kidney failure may need to restrict their fluid intake.

    Respect the kidney. For more information on chronic kidney disease:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- CDC.

    National Kidney Foundation

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    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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