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Kidney Disease is Silent

In observance of Kidney Month, Home Care Assistance is raising awareness around kidney disease. According to the Kidney Foundation, kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States and the tenth leading cause of death in Canada. The primary reason for the high mortality associated with the disease is its silent progression. Like hypertension, symptoms are often only apparent after significant damage has been done;; some people may never have symptoms at all. As a result, the most important step you can take in preventing kidney disease is to be aware of the risk factors and schedule regular screenings—early detection and treatment can prevent more serious complications.

Risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) or blood vessel diseases
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Lupus or another autoimmune disease

Those with diabetes and/or hypertension, the two major causes of chronic kidney disease, should be especially diligent about scheduling screenings at least once a year. It is also important to note that African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans have an inherited tendency to develop kidney disease; diabetes is more common in these groups and African Americans have a higher incidence of hypertension.

Symptoms that may indicate kidney disease:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Puffiness of the eyes, hands and feet
  • Bloody, cloudy or tea-colored urine
  • Protein in the urine
  • Excessive foaming of the urine
  • Overactive bladder during the night
  • Passing less urine or difficulty passing urine
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Persistent, generalized itching

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is advisable to consult with your physician to see if you should undergo a screening for this disease. If you are at risk for, or already have kidney disease, the following lifestyle changes are recommended. Of course, always consult with your physician first before making a change to your diet or exercise regimen.

  • Monitor blood pressure. This is one of the most important steps you can take to lower your risk of kidney disease as well as prevent more serious complications if you are diagnosed with kidney disease. High blood pressure encompasses a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher. Doctors recommend a target of 130/80 or less.
  • Prepare heart-healthy meals. Limit fat, cholesterol and especially sodium to keep blood pressure under control.
  • Watch weight. Being overweight puts you at risk for high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which increase your risk for kidney disease. If you’re overweight consider adjusting your diet and exercise routine.
  • Daily exercise. Being as active as possible will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and optimal heart health.

We encourage you to share this information with family and friends. Knowledge is power and the more we increase awareness and education around kidney disease, the more people will be empowered to take action and make smart lifestyle choices that will decrease their risk of disease.