More Americans are suffering and dying from, chronic kidney disease (CKD) than ever before, says a study published in JAMA Open Network. Researchers saw the trend in both younger and older adults. Poor diets leading to diabetes and high blood pressure, the main causes of CKD, are seen as the biggest reasons.
CKD gets worse over time, which could damage your kidneys for life. If they stop working (kidney failure), dialysis or a kidney transplant are required. Yet thousands of patients die each year waiting for a transplant kidney to become available. Many more become too sick waiting to qualify for a transplant.
The biggest risk factor
Diabetes is the single most common cause of CKD worldwide, says Dr. Alessia Fornoni, a physician scientist and chief of nephrology and hypertension at the University of Miami Health System.
“Our clinic is overflowing,” says Dr. Fornoni. “We are working closely with endocrinologists, podiatrists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists and others in a comprehensive approach. We try to slow down the complications of diabetes and chronic kidney disease. That requires patient education and lifestyle changes.”
“There’s a tough challenge to preventing diabetes,” says Dr. Fornoni. “Diabetes does not cause pain and therefore patients do not often seek medical attention until they start developing complications. If only there would be more education around the use of salt and sugars (there is not such a thing as a good salt or a good sugar), we would be on a good path for the prevention of diabetes and of hypertension (the second leading cause of kidney disease)."
Environmental issues being studied
Environmental risk factors also are part of the rising trend in chronic kidney disease, according to Dr. Fornoni. Heavy metals, herbal remedies, dehydration associated with global warming, overuse of painkillers, dietary supplements and “natural” drinks can all be associated with CKD.
She points to sharp increases in CKD seen in otherwise healthy young male workers on sugar cane farms in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Researchers discovered that the workers did not have the dietary and lifestyle risks seen of CKD patients in America and developed countries. They were overall more physically fit.
“These workers are in hot, sunny climates, sweating and trying to regain fluids,” says Dr. Fornoni. “They drink more water than the average person to stay hydrated. But what’s in their water? Research is looking at the possibility that heavy metal accumulation may contribute to CKD in these patients.”
Decrease your risks for diabetes and chronic kidney disease
Do you already have high blood pressure or diabetes? If so, ensure you work with your physician to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure controlled.
If you do not yet have a diagnosis, be proactive. Fight your sweet tooth and read food labels to create a healthier diet and lifestyle.
- Exercise 30 minutes or longer on most days.
- Schedule and keep regular doctor check-ups.
- Do not smoke or use tobacco, or ask for help quitting.
- Limit your daily and weekly alcohol use.
There is one more thing you can do: educate others.
“Most people have heard of chronic liver disease or heart disease,” says Dr. Fornoni. “The same is not true for chronic kidney disease. This is a serious, non-reversible disease. While we continue working on ways to slow it down, and someday prevent it, we need everyone to help. Talk about it with friends and family members. Address these known dietary and lifestyle risks now, together. It can prevent loss of health and needless deaths for you and the people you love.”
To evaluate your risks, call 305-243-4000 or toll-free 1-800-432-0191. Or fill out an online appointment request form today.
John Senall is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News. He is a former hospital and comprehensive cancer center communications director.