By Dr. Michael L. Cohan
As both medicine and technology advance, people across the country are living longer. That’s mostly good news, but it does mean that certain diseases are more prevalent than ever—namely kidney disease. In the past, people died from other conditions before kidney disease could manifest. But with longer life spans and high incidences of diabetes and hypertension (the two leading causes of kidney disease), we have seen a rise in kidney disease across the board.
Next month is National Kidney Month. So this is as good a time as any to help raise awareness of the disease and to let those who may be at risk know what to look for and some steps they can take to prevent onset of the disease.
What to look for:
Usually, early kidney disease has no symptoms. The symptoms that eventually show are fatigue, swelling of lower extremities, overall weakness and poor appetite. But if you experience these, do not panic—they may be indicative of a number of conditions from very mild to more severe.
Persons with diabetes and hypertension are especially at risk. Those with poor nutrition or who are overweight also put themselves at risk of developing kidney disease (or diabetes and hypertension, for that matter).
What to do:
Regular, preventative medical care is the most important way to stay healthy. Accordingly, schedule regular doctor’s visits and be sure to discuss any fatigue, weakness, swelling or loss of appetite. Your doctor may order blood work or urinalysis, which is the primary way kidney disease, among others, is diagnosed.
Lifestyle choices will also play a major role in prevention. Above all, exercise diligently and maintain a good diet. Stay away from fast foods and packaged foods that are high in sodium and sugar. Try to gravitate toward more organic and natural foods, if available, and foods that are prepared at home.
Look out for high sodium content in unexpected places. Be sure to read nutrition labels and note the amount of sodium per serving rather than per package, because that can be misleading. A good rule of thumb is to stay under 2500mg of sodium per day—the average person takes in between 4,000 and 5,000 mg!
It is important to see a physician on a regular basis to get things like blood pressure, sugar levels and overall health checked. While some cases cannot be prevented because of predisposition due to genetics, they can certainly be managed with proper care and treatment.
Dr. Michael L. Cohan is a nephrologist based in Elmhurst. He also serves as the Medical Director of U.S. Renal Care Villa Park Dialysis, which will be unveiled in a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9 am on Feb. 19 at 200 East North Avenue in Villa Park. The ceremony is open to the public and includes a speaking program and tours. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, please visit www.usrenalcare.com or call (630) 530-5237.