An estimated 1 in 10 adults in the United States has chronic kidney disease (CKD)
This means that their kidney’s ability to filter toxins from the body has been impaired for more than three months. Despite the prevalence of kidney disease, many people are unaware that they even have it. Unfortunately, kidney disease does not simply go away; left untreated, unhealthy kidneys can lead to a buildup of toxins in the blood and bodily tissues. Ultimately, this can increase one’s risk of heart disease and stroke—among other conditions.
Chronic kidney disease generally does not happen in a vacuum. More often than not it develops as a secondary condition due to another underlying disease, either kidney-related or not. For this reason, the key to a healthy kidney is maintaining the overall health of the entire bodily system. The pathophysiology of chronic kidney disease is multifactorial. In this article, we will break down the risk factors involved and discuss the many sorts of holistic care tactics that can help you reduce your risk and identify the symptoms while the disease is in its early stages.
What is chronic kidney disease?
To understand how kidney disease develops, we begin by clarifying the function of the kidneys. Simply put, the kidneys act as a filter through which approximately 150 quarts of blood are filtered each day. Toxins removed from the blood are then excreted through the urinary tract, while other vital substances, like essential minerals and vitamins, amino acids, and hormones, are given the go-ahead to continue circulating in the blood.
Kidney disease develops when an underlying condition or infection impairs kidney filters, thus, deterring the kidneys from doing their job. Over time, these filters can slowly shut down as toxins build up in the blood, resulting in sepsis and kidney failure. Furthermore, failing kidneys cannot support other bodily organs as they should. End-stage renal failure finally occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to function on their own, and dialysis or a full kidney transplant is necessary to save a person’s life.
What causes chronic kidney disease?
Several risk factors make some people more vulnerable than others to the development of kidney disease. Some are unavoidable, some are not. Consider the following key points:
- People with diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and cardiovascular disease are more vulnerable. The risk of developing CKD also increases with age.
- Diseases and infections that cause CKD include glomerulonephritis, interstitial nephritis, polycystic kidney disease, kidney stones, enlarged prostate, vesicoureteral reflux, and recurrent kidney infection.
- Women are at a greater risk of CKD, as women are more likely to have urinary tract infections. Problems with pregnancy, such as hypertension and preeclampsia, can also lead to kidney damage.
- More than 1 in 3 people who have CKD are African American. Experts believe this is because 11.7% of African Americans have diabetes (compared to 7.5% of Caucasians), and diabetes is the #1 cause of CKD. The #2 cause of kidney failure is hypertension, which also affects an estimated 42% of African American adults.
- Having a family history of kidney disease places a person at a greater risk of kidney disease. Genetics are believed to play a role in predisposing a person to CKD, and those who have CKD in their family history are encouraged to be routinely tested for kidney disease.
- People who binge drink or drink heavily regularly are twice as likely to develop chronic kidney disease. Cigarette smoking is another major risk factor.
- Obesity is a well-established risk factor for hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, each of which plays into the development of CKD.
What are the symptoms of kidney disease?
As stated, many people do not realize they have kidney disease. At least, not until it reaches its later stages. Early detection is critical to slowing the disease down and preventing it from affecting other bodily functions. Those who are at a greater risk of developing CKD should have a blood test done routinely. The National Institutes of Health recommends that those with diabetes get tested for kidney disease once a year.
In its later stages, the symptoms of CKD include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in how much you urinate
- Brain fog
- Muscle spasms and unusual cramps
- Swelling of the extremities, particularly the feet and ankles
- Excessive, persistent itching
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
Protecting Your Kidneys with Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle Changes
When it comes to CKD, prevention is key. Protecting your kidneys begins with living a healthy lifestyle. Remember, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease are major risk factors. Thus, striving to prevent these conditions is one of the best things you can do to simultaneously prevent CKD.
- If you have diabetes, you already know how important it is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Doing so is also critical to lowering your risk of developing CKD.
- For those who have high blood pressure, it’s important to choose hypertension medication that protects your kidneys and prevents the loss of amino acids in your urine. Talk to your doctor about such hypertension medications as ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta-blockers, or alpha-blockers.
- Do you smoke cigarettes? If so, there are innumerous reasons why you should cut them out once and for all. Understandably, this is far easier said than done; counseling and medications can be especially beneficial for helping you quit. Your kidneys will thank you.
- Choose a heart-healthy diet. Many staples of the Meditteranean diet are known to boost heart health. Eat plenty of vegetables, and steer clear of saturated fats and animal fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are also well known among the scientific community for their cardiovascular benefits. Opt for olive oil instead of butter, and avoid foods that are pre-packed, processed, or high in salt.
- Exercise regularly. According to the American Heart Association, you should aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week with moderately intense aerobic exercise.
Finding Help for Chronic Kidney Disease in Williamson County, Texas
If you are struggling to make good dietary choices that benefit your heart (and as a result, your kidneys), consider meeting with a dietitian or nutrition counselor nearby. Remember, a healthy heart is critical to the overall health and wellness of your mind, body, and spirit. Without a healthy heart, your kidneys will suffer. While you can’t prevent certain vulnerabilities, such as your gender, ethnicity, or other genetic predispositions, you can eat right, exercise often, and make lifestyle modifications to reduce toxicity in the body.
Last but not least, be sure to save the date on June 17, 2021, for World Kidney Cancer Day. Join patients, survivors, families, friends, caregivers, health professionals, researchers, and local (and global) kidney cancer organizations in raising awareness to reduce the burden of kidney cancer. Thank you for stopping by our blog. It means the world to us that you’ve joined our family. To find additional health resources, visit our directory.
This tool does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you read on our site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.