By Jim Myers, AAKP Board of Director, AAKP Ambassador (Indiana)
National Kidney Month 2020
March is National Kidney Month. It is a time where we raise awareness across the country about kidney diseases and the importance of kidney health. This March is drastically different as we are not only raising awareness of kidneys, but across the globe, united we are working to manage the implications of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Individuals with kidney diseases are at an increased risk for contracting virus such as the flu and COVID-19 due to our suppressed immune systems. So, this year, it’s not only important to raise awareness of kidney disease in general, but to also understand the unique needs of this population. Read on to learn more about your kidney health and for the latest information on COVID-19 from reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) visit https://aakp.org/center-for-patient-research-and-education/coronavirus-resources/.
Each year for National Kidney Month there is a new theme to help raise awareness. This year, in conjunction with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the theme is the link between high blood pressure (HBP) and kidney disease.
What Is High Blood Pressure (HBP)?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against your bloody vessel walls as your heart pumps blood throughout your body. High Blood Pressure (hypertension) is an increase in the force that blood places on the vessels as blood moves through your body.
What Do Your Kidneys Do?
Kidneys that are functioning normally filter a half cup of blood a minute to remove waste & extra water to make urine. The urine goes from your kidneys to your bladder, and eventually out of your body.
How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Your Kidneys?
As a result of the increased pressure on the walls of your blood vessels, HBP can cause the blood vessels to narrow. This in turn causes damages the blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the kidney. The constriction reduces your blood flow to the kidney.
This in turn causes damage to your kidneys. Damaged kidneys that aren’t working well, cannot remove all the waste products from your body. This causes toxins to build up in your body and can eventually lead to total kidney failure.
High Blood Pressure Leading to Kidney Disease is Very Common
HBP is the second leading cause of kidney disease. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), almost 1 of 2 Adults in America (108 Million People) have high blood pressure. More than 1 in 7 American Adults (37 Million People) have chronic kidney disease and most don't know it. This is why during the month of March, we urge you to get tested for Kidney Disease.
Who Is More Likely to Have High Blood Pressure and/or Kidney Disease?
You are more likely to have high blood pressure if:
1. You're Older- Blood Pressure usually increases as we get older. Our blood vessels thicken and stiffen over time;
2. Family History- HBP runs in the family;
3. You Have an Unhealthy Lifestyle- Bad habits like eating too much salt, drinking too much alcohol, not being physically active can increase your risk of HBP;
4. You Are African American, Hispanic or Asian - These populations are more likely to have high blood pressure than Caucasians;
5. You Are Male- Sorry, guys but men are more likely to have high blood pressure than females before the age of 55. Women are more likely to develop HBP after 55.
Kidney Disease Factors
Factors that increase your risk of Kidney Disease are:
2. HBP- can be both a cause and as a result of Kidney Disease;
3. Family History- a family history of Kidney Disease or heredity can cause it, for example polycystic kidney disease;
4. Race/Ethnicity- African Americans, Hispanics & American Indians are at greater risk of Kidney Disease.
The Good News
The good news is that you can take steps to protect your kidneys from HBP. These steps include:
1. Take Your HBP Medication: If your doctor prescribes meds for HBP, make sure you take it as directed. This will lower your blood pressure which in turn will slow the development of Kidney Disease;
2. Maintain A Healthy Weight- You can improve your BP by maintaining a healthy weight as recommended by your doctor;
3. Eat Healthy Foods and Beverages- Fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains & heart-healthy foods should be on your shopping list;
4. Quit Smoking!!;
5. Get Plenty of Sleep- Try for 7-8 hours of sleep every night;
6. Exercise- Try to get at least 30 minutes or more of physical activity every day.
High Blood Pressure is one of the leading causes of chronic kidney disease. In National Kidney Month, please consider taking steps to avoid HBP. Also, please consider testing for Kidney Disease. Talk to your doctor about urinalysis and a blood test for Kidney Disease. Early detection and early treatment could save your life!
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