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National Kidney Foundation calls chronic kidney disease growing public health problem

Most Americans know that heart disease and cancer can be silent killers and understand that monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol and having regular mammograms are critical to protecting their health. Too few people realize, however, that Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is another common, life-threatening illness that often goes undetected until very advanced. The good news is, kidney disease can be detected early through simple tests.
Some 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and millions more are at risk. Worse, today’s epidemics of diabetes and obesity could contribute to even higher rates of CKD in the future. Undiagnosed and untreated, CKD can lead to serious health problems including kidney failure (end-stage renal disease). Caught early, it can often be managed, and kidney damage can be slowed or stopped. That’s why early testing for people at risk is so important.
In recognition of National Kidney Month in March and World Kidney Day on March 13, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) offers this 6-step primer for protecting kidney health.
Step 1: Know These Facts – 6 Things Healthy Kidneys Do: regulate the body’s fluid levels; filter wastes and toxins from the blood; release a hormone that regulates blood pressure; keep blood minerals in balance (sodium, phosphorus, potassium); activate Vitamin D to maintain healthy bones and release the hormone that directs production of red blood cells.
8 Problems Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Can Cause: anemia or low red blood cell count; kidney failure (end-stage renal disease, or ESRD); nerve damage (neuropathy); weak bones; cardiovascular disease; heart attack and stroke; high blood pressure and death.
Step 2: Assess Your Risk – 4 Main Risk Factors: diabetes (self or family); high blood pressure (self or family); cardiovascular disease (self or family) and family history of kidney disease.
10 Additional Risk Factors: African-American heritage; prolonged use of NSAIDs, a type of painkillers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen; Native American heritage; Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander heritage; obesity; age 60 or older; chronic urinary tract infections; lupus, other autoimmune disorders; kidney stones and low birth weight.
Step 3: Recognize Symptoms: Most people with early CKD have no symptoms, which is why early testing is critical. By the time symptoms appear, CKD may be advanced, and symptoms can be misleading. Pay attention to these:
8 Possible Trouble Signs: fatigue, weakness; puffy eyes; difficult, painful urination; swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, feet; foamy urine; increased thirst; pink, dark urine (blood in urine) and increased need to urinate (especially at night).
Step 4: Get Tested: If you or a loved one belong to a high-risk group, ask your primary-care physician about these tests—and be especially insistent about the last one. Your doctor may want to perform other tests as well.
4 Simple, Life-Saving Tests: blood pressure; protein in urine; creatinine in blood (serum creatinine) and Glomular Filtration Rate (GFR).
Step 5: Stay Healthy – 6 Things People with CKD Should Do: lower high blood pressure; reduce salt intake; keep blood-sugar levels under control if diabetic; avoid NSAIDs, a type of pain killer; moderate protein consumption and get an annual flu shot.
9 Things Everyone Should Do: exercise regularly; quit smoking; monitor cholesterol levels; control weight; drink only in moderation; get an annual physical; follow a balanced diet; stay hydrated and know your family medical history.
Step 6: Learn More: The National Kidney Foundation of the Alleghenies will offer a free kidney screening through its Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP) for people 18 years of age or older who are at risk for CKD. The screening will be held in the classroom at Tyrone Hospital on Friday, April 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those who wish to participate in the screening may make an appointment by calling the National Kidney Foundation at 1-800-261-4115. Appointments are now being scheduled and are provided on a first come first served basis. A limited number of appointments are available.
The KEEP screening in Tyrone is made possible through the cooperative efforts of the National Kidney Foundation, Tyrone Hospital, and Pawan Gupta, M.D., Nephrologist on the Tyrone Hospital medical staff and member of the National Kidney Foundation of the Alleghenies Board of Directors.