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Doctor and his Team

Source: Christopher Futcher / Getty

Doctor Griffin Rodgers is the director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. March is recognized as national kidney month.

Below Dr. Rodgers provides more information about chronic kidney disease and its main causes, diabetes and high blood pressure.

WHAT IS KIDNEY DISEASE?

Your kidneys are two bean shaped organs that filter extra water and waste out of your blood and make urine. When kidney disease develops, it means that the kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should.

Kidney disease often gets worse over time and may lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life.

Find more information about kidney disease on NIDDK’s websiteniddk.nih.govniddk.nih.gov.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CASUSES OF KIDNEY DISEASE?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney disease. Because diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease tend to run in families, African Americans and others who may have a greater chance of developing kidney disease should know and share their family health history with family members and their healthcare providers.

SINCE AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE AT GREATER RISK FOR HEALTH PROBLEMS THAT CAN LEAD TO KIDNEY DISEASE, WHAT IS THE NIDDK DOING TO GET THE WORD OUT IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY?

To help spread the word about the risks of kidney disease, the NIDDK partnered with the Chi Eta Phi nursing sorority for the 7th consecutive year and with more than 150 faith organizations to hold “Kidney Sundays” events across the country throughout this month. During these events, we provide kidney information for faith- based communities to share with their members. Chi Eta Phi members help present the materials and provide blood pressure screenings for participants.

Our Kidney Sundays toolkit , which is available on our website, niddk.nih.gov, includes materials that can be used by anyone who wants to conduct a Kidney Sundays event or activity in their community. And Kidney Sundays don’t have to happen only during the month of March. Any Sunday can be a Kidney Sunday.

The NIDDK also developed the Family Reunion Initiative Health Guide to help African American families talk about kidney health. As families plan their reunions – which as you know often happen during the summer months – we hope they will consider incorporating these materials to educate their family members about kidney health.

Again, both these sets of materials – the Kidney Sundays toolkit and the Family Reunion Initiative – can be found on NIDDK’s website, niddk.nih.gov, by searching “Kidney Sundays” and “Family Reunion.”

Again, both these sets of materials – the and the Family Reunion Initiative – can be found on , , by searching “Kidney Sundays” and “Family Reunion.”

WHY THE FOCUS ON WOMEN’S KIDNEY HEALTH NOW?

A: We are focusing on women because kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death for American women and affects more than 16 million women in the United States. Also chronic kidney disease occurs in women more often than men.

Because early kidney disease usually has no symptoms, it is sometimes called a “silent disease.” Many people with kidney disease don’t have symptoms until their kidneys are severely damaged and nearing kidney failure. The NIDDK encourages you to make the connection between kidney disease and diabetes and high blood pressure—and to get tested if you have an increased chance of developing kidney disease.

Women can play a unique role in modeling healthy habits for their loved ones. We encourage women – and everyone – to take proactive steps to protect their kidneys, and to help raise awareness. Healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, which are the most common causes of kidney disease. Additionally, if you already have diabetes or high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you better manage these conditions.

WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE DO IF THEY HAVE A GREATER CHANCE OF DEVELOPING KIDNEY DISEASE?

You can help protect yourself and your family from chronic kidney disease and its main causes – diabetes and high blood pressure – by adopting a healthy lifestyle for your entire family. Some steps you can take include:

  • Make healthy food choices such as fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
  • Make physical activity part of your routine. Be active for 30 minutes or more on most days.
  • Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, work with your health care provider or dietitian to create a realistic weight-loss plan.
  • Get enough sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Try to keep the same sleep and wake schedule every day.
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol intake.
  • Explore stress-reducing activities, including physical activity, meditation, or yoga.
  • Be proactive at your medical appointments. Ask about testing for kidney disease and diabetes, and find out if your blood pressure is in normal range.
  • Also, Follow NIDDKus on Twitter and Facebook @NIDDKgov at @NIDDKgov for more tips on making healthy food choices, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress. These are all important ways to protect your kidneys from damage, to prevent heart disease, and to improve your overall health.

HOW CAN YOU GET TESTED FOR KIDNEY DISEASE?

A: Your health care provider will use a blood test and a urine test to diagnose kidney disease or refer you for testing. Testing is easy and involves a blood test and a urine test.

    • The blood test tells how well your kidneys are working, or filtering your blood.
    • And The urine test checks for a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.

If tests show that you have kidney disease, ask your pharmacist to review all your medicines. Let your provider know about all the medicines you take, including the ones you buy without prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), vitamins, and supplements. NSAIDs should be avoided if you have kidney disease. NSAIDs include medicines containing ibuprofen and naproxen.

WHAT ARE SOME PREVENTATIVE OPTIONS FOR KIDNEY DISEASE?

One of the best ways to help protect your kidneys – and be healthier overall is, as I said earlier, to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Doing so can help prevent and manage high blood pressure and diabetes, and it also helps to protect kidney health. Also, it’s important to take all medications prescribed for you, and to aim for a healthy weight, eat right, get enough sleep, and make physical activity part of your routine.

This year, we’re asking women to serve as role models and to encourage healthy lifestyle habits for their friends, families, and communities to help prevent kidney disease.

Again, kidney disease usually has no symptoms, which is why it’s important for people who have diabetes or high blood pressure to get tested. Taking action now can help protect your kidneys.

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