March is National Kidney Month, time to generate awareness for the importance of kidney health and to reduce the instances and severity of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). One in 10 people worldwide suffers from CKD, yet 90% are unaware of their condition. In the U.S., 37 million Americans suffer from CKD, making it a public health imperative in this country. While the disease is irreversible, early detection and intervention can delay progression, improve outcomes, and save lives.
Kidneys play a vital role in our overall health. They are responsible for filtering waste from the blood, ensuring we maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals. They are constantly working, filtering as much as 150 quarts of blood in a single day. Through this process, kidneys are also responsible for directing the production of red blood cells, regulating fluid, and controlling blood pressure. When the kidneys stop functioning, the delicate balance of water, salts, and minerals is upset. This has a rapid, cascading, and life-threatening effect on overall health.
Kidneys can become slowly damaged over time, with several risk factors playing a role. The most significant factors are diabetes and hypertension. An estimated 1 in 3 individuals with diabetes and an estimated 1 in 5 with hypertension also suffer from kidney disease. High blood sugar and high blood pressure both damage the blood vessels in the kidneys over time. Lifestyle decisions may also elevate the risk of kidney disease, especially for those with comorbidities. Smoking, a poor diet, lack of sleep, and a lack of exercise can all contribute to kidney damage over time.
CKD is a progressive disease, which means the risk increases for each of us as we age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates as many as 38% of Americans over 65 may suffer from CKD. In its early stages, it is asymptomatic. Nine out of 10 individuals with CKD are unaware of their condition until they reach renal failure, requiring emergency medical attention visit and what is known as “crashing” into dialysis. Unfortunately, by that stage of disease, kidney damage is irreversible and severe enough to necessitate ongoing dialysis or a kidney transplant.
The best way to stop kidney disease in its tracks is to:
- Understand the risk factors;
- Prioritize a healthy lifestyle, including diet, exercise, and smoking cessation;
- Manage comorbidities with medication when prescribed;
- Learn the early symptoms of kidney disease; and
- Get tested annually if you are at increased risk.
All individuals over the age of 60, those with a family history of kidney disease, or anyone with a known comorbidity should receive regular kidney health screenings. Anyone experiencing CKD symptoms, such as swelling, blood in the urine, excessive thirst, or fatigue, should also be evaluated. Your doctor can perform an ACR urine test or GFR blood test to diagnose kidney disease. Early identification slows the progression of the disease through effective management. It improves quality of life and delays (or even prevents) End Stage Renal Disease.
During this National Kidney Month and throughout the year, Healthmap invites you to join us on our mission to spread kidney health awareness. At Healthmap, our number one priority is the health and well-being of the kidney patients we serve on behalf of our Health Plan and Health System partners. We support kidney healthcare providers in the management of the “whole” patient through our innovative and proven Kidney Health Management (KHM) program. We use our advanced technology, superior clinical expertise, and complex care management know-how to power our KHM program to deliver improved care, outcomes, and patient experience, all while driving savings. For more information on Healthmap’s services, contact us today.