Protect your kidneys, save your heart

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Protect your kidneys, save your heart

Keep your kidneys healthy as they are amazing organs, just the size of a fist, which help keep the body fit – healthy kidneys also reduce the risk of getting cardiovascular diseases said doctors on World Kidney Day, March 10, being celebrated at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH).

This year’s World Kidney Day theme was ‘protect your kidneys, save your heart’, highlighting the link between chronic kidney disease (CKD), a common global medical problem, and its strong relationship with cardiovascular diseases. CKD is a slowly progressive, often silent, disease in which the kidneys gradually lose the ability to remove toxins and waste products from the blood said Dr Waqar Kashif, Consultant Nephrologist, AKUH. People at high risk of developing the disease include those with diabetes and high blood pressure, individuals who are obese, smoke or are over the age of 40 and with a family history of kidney disease.

Undetected CKD can lead to the kidneys becoming progressively weaker, eventually leading to kidney failure and the need for dialysis or even a kidney transplant. The second effect of CKD is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Dr Ather Hussain, Head of Nephrology and Consultant Nephrologist, AKUH, pointed out that screening and preventive behaviours can reduce the complications that can occur from CKD. However, all CKD patients should be treated as though they are at high risk for heart and cardiovascular disease.

High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of CKD worldwide. Currently in Pakistan, one-third of patients on dialysis have kidney disease as a result of long standing and uncontrolled high blood pressure. Moreover, patients who have diabetes, in addition to high blood pressure, have greater chances of developing diabetic kidney disease. As CKD progresses, controlling blood pressure becomes more difficult, with patients sometimes requiring five to six different types of medicines to keep it under control. 

But CKD can be detected early on using simple blood and urine tests. Once detected, there are several protective measures that can be taken, said Dr Abdul Mabood Khalil, Consultant Nephrologist, AKUH, including a low-salt diet that can help lower blood pressure, controlling your blood sugar level, monitoring your blood pressure, stopping smoking, increasing physical activity and losing weight.

Dr Arshalooz Rehman, Consultant Paediatrician, AKUH, spoke about paediatric kidney disease as a growing problem because common problems like kidney stones and urinary tract infections are not managed timely. To tackle this problem community-based screening programmes for children should include blood pressure checks, BMI (body mass index) assessment and urine dipsticks analysis to screen for high risk group who can be helped by a change in diet and lifestyle.

Kidney diseases are progressing in Pakistan and inadequate measures being taken to control this silent epidemic. But the costs of treating these diseases stretch the government health care system and are often beyond the reach of many. Experts agree that we need to shift from long term treatment to early detection and prevention.