Kidney's play a very important role in day to day health and they perform many critical functions. Dr Preap Ley of Sihanouk HOPE hospital explains, “kidney[s] [are] one of the urinary organs …[their] major function is the process of excretion. Kidneys [also] maintain a stable internal environment (homeostasis) for optimal cell and tissue metabolism.”
“Your kidneys are so important they even have an effect on your blood pressure.” So why is kidney health important? As well as their important role excreting the waste products of metabolism, the kidneys also help to filter blood before sending it back to the heart. The kidneys are responsible for many important bodily functions, “without kidney[s] we would not survive.”
Dr Ley confirms anecdotal information about the rise of kidney disease in Cambodia, “there is no nationwide data about kidney disease in Cambodia” but “kidney disease is rising due to many factors.”
These factors include use of medications, high blood pressure, diabetes, genetics, alcohol use, changes in lifestyle, and age will play a role for some people, older people may experience a reduction in kidney function as they age. “If we look into our current community, all those conditions are increase[ing]”
How then to best protect our valuable and important kidneys? Dr Ley advises that we pay special attention to the factors previously mentioned that are likely to harm the kidneys.
“People with long term conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, a history of kidney problems, or a family history of severe kidney disease should already be having their kidney function checked routinely.”
According to Dr Ley, ‘in [the] western world … adults aged over forty should now be invited for a health check [every five years] and may be considered for kidney function tests.”
To help prevent kidney disease Dr Ley recommends that you check your blood pressure regularly as high blood pressure can speed up “the natural course of any underlying kidney disease.”If you suffer from diabetes it is very important to stay on top of your treatment, and make sure it is under control.
Next is medication, “be very careful about taking non prescription medications, particularly painkillers. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are also keys to kidney health.” More advice is to avoid smoking and drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
Diet plays a pivotal role in kidney health, to ensure that your kidneys are doing their best work, try to drink plenty of water, eat more vegetables and fruits, and avoid processed foods and high cholesterol foods. Combined with regular exercise and you should be well on your way to maintaining healthy kidneys.
If people suspect that they may have reduced kidney function, Dr Leys’ advice is to waste no time and go to the doctor as soon as possible.
“People should know that kidney disease usually progresses silently, often destroying most of the kidney function before causing any symptoms.” By getting to a doctor early you have the best chance of maintaining a normal life. The two ways that the doctor will test your kidney function will first be a blood test and secondly a Urinalysis, the Urinalysis is useful for “detecting kidney damage at an early stage and determining risk of losing more kidney function.” This may be followed by an ultrasound, X-rays, or a kidney biopsy.
Kidney disease can be deadly and it “normally does not go away once it’s diagnosed.” The best way to avoid kidney disease and maintain kidney health is to “adopt a healthy lifestyle and follow [your] doctor’s advice”. If left untreated, kidney disease will get worse with time, “it may even lead to kidney failure. Kidney failure can be life threatening … [it] occurs when kidneys are barely working or not working at all. This is managed by dialysis or in some cases, we need kidney transplantation.”
The consequences of kidney disease are very serious, luckily there is a lot you can do to maintain kidney health and prevent reduced kidney function.
Healthier lifestyles, increased exercise, and cleaner eating are all pathways to good kidney function well into your later years.