Kidneys Play Important Role in Overall Health

January 31, 2011

More than 26 million American adults have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and millions more are at risk and do not know it. Diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to CKD. Chronic kidney disease means that the kidneys have been damaged.

If kidney disease gets worse, wastes can build to high levels in your blood and make you feel sick. You may develop complications like high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count), weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. Also, kidney disease increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease. Experts say these problems usually happen slowly over a long period of time, so it’s important to be screened regularly.

Chronic kidney disease may be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure and other disorders. (It varies from patient to patient as CKD can cause high blood pressure and blood pressure can cause CKD.) Early detection and treatment can often keep chronic kidney disease from getting worse. Kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life. Once your kidneys are damaged, they cannot filter your blood nor do other jobs as well as they should.

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force your blood puts on the walls of your blood vessels as your heart works. Most people know they need to control their blood pressure. But the National Kidney Foundation of Central New York encourages us to “know our numbers.” To give you an idea, a good blood pressure is 118/78. A “cautionary” number is 129/83 and if your blood pressure is 140/90, it is considered high. If it is 160/100, you are encouraged to seek medical attention right away. Many grocery stores and pharmacies provide a blood pressure check machine for free. To control blood pressure, medications are often necessary. If you think your blood pressure is high, visit your doctor so he can suggest any treatment.

There are five stages of kidney disease. Doctors use something called a glomerular filtration rate (GFR). As chronic kidney disease progresses your GFR number decreases. When kidneys are damaged, they have trouble removing creatinine from your blood. Creatinine is stored in muscle tissue and blood. Doctors can test this number easily. They also may test urine albumin and blood pressure to determine your condition.

Reduce sodium

Sodium, found in salt and other processed foods, can easily raise blood pressure. Health care experts say to avoid fast food meals for starters: Two slices of pizza from a certain national chain contains the recommended sodium intake for the entire day—roughly 2,500 mg. Low sodium foods are plentiful. Whole grains such as barley, oats, pasta or rice contain less than 10 mg of sodium in one serving. Increasing servings of fruits and vegetables as well as reducing protein also helps lower blood pressure, but often, medications are necessary in combination with dietary changes.

Increasing activity is usually a good idea for most people, however, consult your doctor on any exercise regimen, as advice varies based on age, weight and other health risk factors.

There will be a free screening at the Central New York Kidney Foundation on March 10 at 731 James St., in Syracuse from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Health care professionals and volunteers will be on hand to educate the public about kidney disease and perform screenings. For more information, visit their website or call (315) 476-0311.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at or by calling (315) 598-5185.