Kidney health: call for preventive care

Kidney health: call for preventive care

World Kidney Day (WKD) is a global campaign celebrated every year on the second Thursday of March, aimed at increasing awareness about the importance of kidneys to our health and reducing the impact of kidney disease and its associated problems. This year’s theme is ‘Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere’.

Kidneys are an integral and crucial part of overall well-being. Therefore, it is important that we take good care of them. Healthy food habits coupled with regular exercise can really help boast your immunity as well as keep kidneys in good health.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a non-communicable disease that affects 1 in 10 people worldwide. While its severity can vary, CKD is often progressive and needs lifelong medical care.

Over 850 million people worldwide are now estimated to have kidney diseases from various causes. CKD causes at least 2.4 million deaths per year and is now the sixth most common cause of death. Nine out of 10 patients who have kidney disease don’t even know that they have it. Between two to seven million premature deaths happen for lack of access to dialysis and transplantation.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is also an important driver of CKD, affecting over 13 million people worldwide, with 85% of cases found in low and middle-income countries. Around 1.7 million people are estimated to die annually because of AKI.

Over the past 10-15 years, India’s disease burden has shifted from communicable to lifestyle diseases, contributing to over 60% of the share currently. We have over 60 million diabetics and an even larger number of pre-diabetics, a large population with hypertension, two of the most common causes of CKD and hence over 2,00,000 patients dying of kidney failure every year. The economic burden of kidney diseases alone would overwhelm our entire healthcare budget.

CKD and AKI often arise from poor socio-economic conditions with poverty, gender discrimination, lack of education, occupational hazards and pollution being the force multipliers.

Despite the growing burden of kidney disease, kidney health is often under emphasised and neglected, leading to late detection. Barriers to available, accessible, adequate and quality kidney care persist throughout our country. Treatments for kidney disease are often inaccessible due to high out-of-pocket costs as well as lack of infrastructure and specialised healthcare professionals.

Hence, we need to put our minds and resources to making our country healthier and fitter by moving our focus from curative to preventive care. This can only happen by creating awareness about kidney health starting early in schools and colleges and with emphasis on screening for kidney disease.

To avoid and to embrace

Emphasis must be on avoiding the five sins of today’s world, namely sugar, smoking, salt, stress and sedentary lifestyle while also inculcating the values of healthy eating and physical exercise at a young age.

The public must be made aware of the four important numbers in life, namely, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and kidney number (Creatinine). Patients must be educated to discuss with healthcare givers about their kidney number, enquire if their kidneys are healthy and measures to be taken to keep them healthy.

It is important to include green leafy vegetables, seasonal fruits and fluids in our diet. Importance of super foods also cannot be undermined. Apples, cranberries, blueberries, garlic etc can boost your kidney health considerably.

There are eight golden rules towards maintaining your kidney. Keep fit and active, monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar levels at regular intervals, eat healthy and keep your weight under control, maintain healthy body weight, do not smoke and do not take over-the-counter drugs or pills.

Early diagnosis, prevention and delay of progression are the only sustainable options to reduce costs and consequences of kidney disease for individuals and countries. Get your kidney function checked if you are obese, diabetic, have hypertension or have a family history.

The campaign on March 14, 2019, set out to raise awareness of the high and increasing burden of kidney disease worldwide and of the need for strategies for kidney disease prevention and management. We must endeavour towards building a healthy future thereby enabling to build a strong nation and eradicate kidney ailments.

(The writer is Chairman, Manipal Hospitals)

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