Know the Facts: Chronic Kidney DiseaseAs the sun comes out to welcome the coming of spring, it's time to shed some light on a critical health topic - kidney disease and the importance of a healthy kidney system.
March is National Kidney Month - with National Kidney Day happening on March 10 - a time dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of this organ and the vital functions it performs. This includes removing any waste, drugs, or excess fluid from the body (about two litres a day!), regulating blood pressure, controlling the production of red blood cells, promoting healthy bones and, last but cerrainly not least, regulating the body's salt, potassium and acid content.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, 26 million American adults have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and millions of others are at increased risk due to diabetes and high blood pressure - the leading causes of CKD. And most of them don't even know it - without many noticeable symptoms in its early stages, the disease has been labeled a “silent killer.” CKD, if left unnoticed or untreated, can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, weak bones, kidney failure, nerve damage, anemia, and even death.
There are four main risk factors for CKD: diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and a family history of kidney disease or diabetes or high blood pressure. Others also include obesity, low birth weight, kidney stones, chronic urinary tract infections, African, Asian, or Hispanic heritage, or if you're 60 years old or over.
If someone is already at risk, it is crucial to watch out for any sign of the following symptoms: fatigue, weakness, swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, feet, or eyes, increased thirst, increased need to urinate (especially at night), or urine that is pink, foamy, or painful.
As previously stated, a prominent contributor to an unhealthy kidney is high blood pressure, which can be easily helped by a change to a low-sodium diet. The National Kidney Foundation has a great list of tips to shake the salt habit:
- Stick to fresh meats, rather than packaged products like bacon, which are high in sodium.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are low in sodium, and canned and frozen fruits and veggies are typically low-salt as well. But watch out for frozen vegetables that contain added seasoning or sauces, which may contain lots of extra salt too. Choose “fresh frozen” instead.
- Make reading food labels a habit. Sodium content is always listed on food labels.
- Sodium content can vary from brand to brand, so compare and choose the lowest sodium product.
- Avoid spices and seasonings that contain added sodium, for example garlic salt. Pick garlic powder instead.
- Many restaurants list the sodium content of their products on their Web sites, so do your homework before dining out.
- When dining out, you can also request that your food be prepared without any added salt.
- Certain foods don’t taste particularly salty but are actually high in sodium, such as cottage cheese, another reason to check labels.
- Try to spread your sodium intake out throughout the day; it’s easier on your kidneys than eating lots of salt all at once.
- You can learn to adjust to eating less salt. It typically takes about six to eight weeks on a low-sodium diet to get used to it. After that, you’ll actually find it harder to eat very salty foods, like potato chips.
Luckily, if you're living in a retirement residence there's no need to worry about whether the food you're eating is too high in sodium. Menus and recipes are carefully crafted to provide residents with a well-balanced yet enjoyable diet. Other steps to prevent CKD can also be facilitated by the staff and facilities at a retirement residence, like regular exercise, routine check-ups, and weight control.
Make kidney health a priority this month, and it will affect you until the rest of the season, year, and forever.