Did you know that 1 in 10 Canadians has kidney disease?
Kidney disease usually progresses silently, often destroying most of the kidney function before causing any symptoms. As a result, many people are not aware that they have kidney disease and by the time many realize that they have it, the stage of kidney disease can be quite advanced. This is important, as once kidney function had deteriorated, it cannot be recovered.
The Important of Screening
If you or a family member have any of the risk factors listed below, it is very important to make sure that your family doctor periodically screens for the disease, as diagnosing it early can make a significant difference in the outcome. It is recommended that kidney function be assessed regularly by your physician or health care provider at a local clinic, even if you don’t feel sick.
eGFR and Urine Albumin – Two Markers
Two key markers for kidney disease are eGFR and urine albumin.
eGFR stands for estimated glomerular filtration rate and is a test used to check how well the kidneys are functioning. Specifically, it estimates how much blood passes through the glomeruli (tiny filters in the kidneys) per minute. Each kidney contains about 1 million glomeruli which filter waste from the blood. The eGFR can be estimated by the clearance of creatinine, which is a naturally produced waste product from muscle cell turnover. When the level of creatinine goes up, the eGFR goes down.
Urine Albumin – Over several years, people who are developing kidney disease will have small amounts of a blood protein called albumin leak into the urine which is the first stage of chronic kidney disease called microalbuminuria (literally meaning a ‘little bit of albumin in the urine’). The kidney’s filtration function usually remains normal during this period.
As the disease progresses, more albumin leaks into the urine and at which time the next stage, called macroalbuminuria (‘a lot of albumin in the urine’) or proteinuria (‘protein in the urine’) is reached.
As the amount of albumin in the urine raises, the filtration function of kidney usually begins to drop and results in retaining of waste products.
Are you at Risk for Kidney Disease?
There are several factors which lead to an increased risk of getting kidney disease and these are;
2) High blood pressure
3) Heart / Cardiovascular Disease
4) Family history of kidney disease
5) Race / Ethnicity
Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney disease.
It can take many years to develop, without you feeling it. What is diabetes? Diabetes is a disease that can either be caused by a lack of insulin in the body (Type 1 Diabetes) or by the body’s inability to properly utilize normal amounts of insulin (Type 2 Diabetes). Our bodies convert the food we eat into sugar (glucose) which we use as energy to function. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate the amount of glucose in our blood. High blood sugar will result when our body lacks insulin or cannot use insulin properly.
Eventually as diabetes progresses, it can damage the kidneys.The high levels of circulating glucose in our blood damage the nerves in our bladder and make it difficult to pass urine. The pressure from urine building up in the bladder in turn can damage the kidneys. Since the urine of a person with diabetes has a high sugar content, this can encourage the growth of bacteria, leading to increased likelihood of getting a kidney infection.. Finally, diabetes can damage blood vessels in the glomeruli (filters) of the kidney which can cause protein to leak through the urine (proteinuria).
2) High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney disease.
Blood pressure measures the force of the blood pushing against blood vessel walls as the heart pumps out blood. There are two numbers on your blood pressure reading, a top number and a bottom number.
The top number = systolic blood pressure: represents the pressure as the heart beats and pushes blood through the blood vessels.
The bottom number = diastolic blood pressure: represents the pressure as blood vessels relax between heart beats.
The normal range for blood pressure should be less than 120 / 80.
High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys which reduces their ability to work properly. A damaged kidney is ineffective at removing waste and as a result, extra fluid from our body builds up, resulting in fluid overload.
3) Heart / Cardiovascular Disease
Many of the risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease or heart disease are also risk factors for progression of chronic kidney disease.
The heart pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood through the arteries to vital organs, including our kidneys. Having heart disease can narrow the arteries which supply blood to the kidneys which reduce the blood flow to the kidneys, leading to kidney damage.
4) Family history of Kidney Disease
Some types of kidney disease, such as polycystic kidney disease (PKD), can be genetically passed on to the children of an affected parent.
5) Race / Ethnicity and Kidney Disease
Data indicates that people whose ethnic background is Aboriginal (First Nation), Asian, South Asian, African-Caribbean or Hispanic are more at risk for kidney disease. This could be because these groups tend to have a higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, which are the two leading causes of kidney disease.
In addition to increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, lung disease and cancer, smoking also increases the risk of kidney disease and end-stage renal (kidney) disease.
What to Do if You are at Risk
Since kidney disease often takes many years to develop and often without any symptoms whatsoever, it is very important to identify the risk factors you may have and be sure to be screened regularly by having your eGFR and urine albumin levels checked by your doctor.
Even without any of these risk factors, people develop kidney disease so don’t hesitate to have these tests to be sure. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for a blood test and have you kidney function level tested.
How Nutrition to You can Help
If you have been diagnosed with early stage kidney disease and you would like to know more about following a diet to control for potassium, sodium and phosphorus intakes, our Dietitian who specializes in Kidney Disease can help.
Please click on the Contact Us tab above to send us a note.
- Early Detection & Prevention. The Kidney Foundation of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.kidney.ca/risk-factors
- At Risk for Kidney Disease? (2014, March 5). National Kidney Disease Education Program. Retrieved from http://nkdep.nih.gov/learn/are-you-at-risk.shtm
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