Act fast to curb obesity menace

Obesity is a growing epidemic worldwide, and also a significant risk factor for chronic kidney disease. This year’s theme for World Kidney Day is ‘Kidney disease and obesity’ as there is a strong co-relation between obesity and kidney ailments. Obesity is one of the key causes for the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD). It also increases the risk of major diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

However, the good news is that, obesity as well as chronic kidney disease are largely preventable. Education and awareness of the risks of obesity and a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition and exercise can dramatically help in preventing these ailments.

Reducing obesity may slow down the progression of these diseases as well. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), by 2025, obesity will affect 18% of men and over 21% of women worldwide and severe obesity will affect 6% of all men and 9% of all women around the world. In some nations, more than one-third of the population is obese and this contributes significantly to the overall poor health and high annual medical costs.

Being overweight and obese as measured by a body mass index (BMI) of 25kg/m sq or more, has become a very serious health problem, especially in the developed nations. Now, its arms are stretching towards the developing nations as well. Even the younger population is not spared. Being obese at an early age will leave them with serious health consequences. It has been projected that, at this rate, obesity will grow by 40% in the next decade.

Besides CKD, the other ailments that come along with obesity are — diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, joint problems, malignancy, lung problems. A high BMI is one of the strongest factors for new-onset CKD.

In individuals affected by obesity, compensatory hyperfiltration occurs to meet the heightened metabolic demands of the increased body weight. The rise in intraglomerular pressure can damage the kidneys and raise the risk of developing CKD in the long term.

The incidence of obesity-related glomerulopathy has increased 10-fold in recent years. Obesity has also been shown to be a risk factor for nephrolithiasis and a number of malignancies including kidney cancer.

In addition to the direct effects of obesity on the kidney, the occurrence of diabetes and hypertension in obese individuals can damage the organ. In fact, diabetic kidney disease is the most common cause of kidney disease all over the world now.

Advocating for a healthy lifestyle, this year’s World Kidney Day stresses on the awareness of health risks related to obesity, especially kidney diseases. The day calls for policies that would help instill preventive behaviours among the masses, as it is a much affordable option compared to its treatment.

Prevent it, now
Like the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, we must always look at measures to sustain and keep kidney-related ailments at bay. Apart from healthy eating, regular exercise, avoiding smoking and alcohol, one must also avoid taking painkillers too often. These over the counter drugs make your kidneys weak. Drinking adequate amount of water is crucial to maintain good kidneys.

Patients with risk factors of chronic kidney disease should undergo screening tests for early detection and start preventive measures, as the effectiveness of these measures is best seen when started early in course of the disease. In the initial stages, kidney disease is completely silent, it does not show any symptom.

Hence, it is more important to screen it for early detection. Screening tests include a simple urine analysis and measurement of serum creatinine in the blood. People who need to undergo the screening include those with diabetes, hypertension and obesity, a family history of kidney failure, recurrent kidney stones and frequent urinary tract infections.

Moreover, obese people are at an increased risk of many other ailments like gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint), sleep apnea and breathing problems, mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, body pain and difficulty with physical functioning.

Therefore, it is in our best interest that we make up our minds and fight against obesity — the root cause of most lifestyle disorders.

(The writer is veteran nephrologist and Chairman, Manipal Hospitals)

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