Kidney Disease is amongst the top 10 killer diseases globally with an estimated 90,000 American deaths every year, far more than the combined mortalities of breast and prostrate cancers. Yet, the Kidney diseases do not get the due public attention or adequate funding as the malignancies do.
The treatment costs for treating End-stage Kidney Disease through dialysis or by a kidney transplantation is astronomically high, and almost 6times the amount paid by Medicare insurance for a patient over 65, necessitating unaffordable out-of pocket expense for an average citizen.
The kidney diseases produce no symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Although much is known about the people who fall in the greatest risk categories for chronic kidney disease, they are unlikely to know that they have a progressive kidney disease, unless they are tested upon. Although it is known how progressive kidney disease can be prevented or detected at an earlier stage and treated to slow-down or halt the disease progression, but could be effectively utilized only when people at the risk categories are tested.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Alex Chang of John-Hopkins University demonstrated how common lifestyle factors contribute to the kidney damage. His team followed more than 2300 young adults for 15 years, and found that the participants who possessed highest risks for developing kidney disease were those who smoked, who were obese, or had diets high in red and processed meats or take high amounts of sugar-sweetened drinks or sodium, or who had a low intake of fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains and dairy products.
The study showed that only 1 percent of participants having no lifestyle-related risk factors developed protein in their urine, an early indicator of kidney damage, against 13 percent of those with three unhealthy factors developed proteinuria. Obesity alone doubled the risk of developing kidney disease while an unhealthy diet raised the risks two times more, even when weight and other lifestyle factors were considered.
Overall, the study concluded that the African-Americans were at the highest risk for kidney disease, apart from those having diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease.
Dr. Beth Piraino, president of the National Kidney Foundation, commenting on the study said, “We need to shift the focus from managing chronic kidney disease to preventing it in the first place.”
According to Dr. Leslie Spry, director of the Dialysis Center of Lincoln in Nebraska, highlighted that even if people with high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or obesity manage to avoid a heart attack or stroke, still remain at a risk for kidney disease which he equated with the third rail.
He said that the chances of developing kidney disease increases from one in 10 to one in three, even when having just one risk factor an that the family history of kidney disease is alone not the only genetic risk. “Apart from African-Americans, the Hispanic Americans, the Asian Americans and the Indian Americans were more likely to develop kidney disease than white Americans”, Dr. Spry continued.
He also highlighted the need to stop smoking, reducing the salt intake, including more fresh fruits and vegetables and increasing the physical activities, the common things people can follow to avoid kidney disease. He also urges everyone with any risk factor for kidney disease to be screened annually with inexpensive urine and blood tests.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs): the two commonly used medications to treat high blood pressure can often halt or delay the progression of kidney disease in people with diabetes. Moreover it is necessary to have a careful monitoring and control of blood sugar levels to protect the kidneys from further damage.