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World Kidney Day: How Not to Take Your Kidneys for Granted

This World Kidney Day, a doctor answers questions on how to keep your kidneys healthy and protected from disease.

Updated
Fit
5 min read
This World Kidney Day, a doctor answers questions on how to keep your kidneys healthy and protected from disease.
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(11 March 2021 is World Kidney Day. In light of it, FIT is republishing this story.)

Snapshot

Skipped meals, junk food, not drinking enough water and a bad lifestyle overall - these are things we all tackle at one point or another. But were you aware of how all of these could be affecting your kidneys? Once you do become aware, what is next? How do you take care of yourself? Are women more prone to kidney problems than men?

This World Kidney Day, a doctor answers all of these questions.

World Kidney Day: How Not to Take Your Kidneys for Granted

  1. 1. What are Some Lesser Known Facts About Kidneys?

    Speaking with FIT, Dr Sanjeev Gulati, Director, Fortis Institute of Renal Sciences and Transplant (FIRST), points out that because we have two kidneys, does not mean we take things for granted. Stressing on the same concern, Dr Gulati mentions a kidney problem whose symptoms appear only after it has progressed to dangerous levels.

    Because we have two kidneys, does not mean we take things for granted.
    Because we have two kidneys, does not mean we take things for granted.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)
    Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a silent killer and symptoms are few, non-specific and come very late. Hence most patients with CKD approach the nephrologist very late. We should not wait for symptoms to diagnose CKD. Once CKD is advanced and has reached Stage 5, dialysis or kidney transplant is the only option. At this stage, there is no role at all of any alternative therapies.
    Dr Sanjeev Gulati

    In India, kidney problems have reached a magnitude where more than 2.5 lakh patients need a new kidney every year.

    Expand
  2. 2. Beyond Diet, Exercise and Hydration, What Should We Keep in Mind?

    A harmful activity that isn’t often linked with kidney problems is smoking. It needs to be quit immediately if you want to protect your kidneys, along with your lungs, points out Dr Gulati. Passive smoking is just as bad. Exposure to it can also raise the chances of CKD, which can lead to renal failure, according to a study.

    A harmful activity that isn’t often linked with kidney problems is smoking.
    A harmful activity that isn’t often linked with kidney problems is smoking.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    In addition to this, you need to watch out for your weight.

    It directly puts pressure on your kidney filters besides also causing hypertension. If you have gained excessive weight in a short duration of time, you must consult a doctor and get screened for kidney disease.
    Dr Sanjeev Gulati

    It’s also important to avoid use of herbal medication. Until we have robust scientific data, it is advisable to avoid quacks who prescribe these untested preparations, says the doctor.

    Expand
  3. 3. Are Kidney Stones on the Rise Among the Younger Population?

    Yes, indeed they are on the rise, affirms Dr Gulati.

    All types of kidney diseases, especially kidney stones, are rising among the younger population. In my experience from the previous decade, 5 percent of my patients with CKD were children. Now this number has nearly doubled in this decade. We are seeing many more pediatrics and teenage cases of CKD these days.
    Dr Sanjeev Gulati

    All of it is primarily related to a poor lifestyle that consists of junk food, high intake of salt and lack of physical activity. These, in turn, contribute to hypertension and excessive weight gain, along with increasing prevalence of diabetes. Among other things, diabetes has also been linked to kidney problems.

    All of it is primarily related to a poor lifestyle that consists of junk food, high intake of salt and lack of physical activity.
    All of it is primarily related to a poor lifestyle that consists of junk food, high intake of salt and lack of physical activity.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    It is widely known that patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes are at higher risks of renal injury and kidney disease. A study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, has found a strong association between lifestyle interventions like physical activity and prevention of chronic kidney diseases.

    Air pollution too has emerged as an important and under-recognised factor in the rising prevalence of kidney diseases.

    Expand
  4. 4. Things to Watch Out for to Safeguard Yourself

    Primarily, there are three things to be kept in mind:

    • Inappropriate or excessive use of painkillers: Dr Gulati strongly advises against this. Popping over-the-counter painkillers for headaches, back aches, tummy aches and other pain is not a good practice. The longer you pop pain killers without prescriptions, the more they can damage your kidney, he says.
      According to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, popping oral antibiotics too can up your risk of developing kidney stones.
    Popping oral antibiotics too can up your risk of developing kidney stones.
    Popping oral antibiotics too can up your risk of developing kidney stones.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)
    • Uncontrolled blood pressure: This puts extra pressure on the kidneys.
    It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, you must get your blood sugar and blood pressure checked on regular basis. In case you have high blood pressure (>120/80), please consult your doctor for need of any medications and monitor it periodically to ensure that it is in the target range.
    Dr Sanjeev Gulati
    • Uncontrolled diabetes: This too causes kidney damage.
    If you are diabetic, then please monitor your blood sugars regularly and consult your diabetologist. Diabetes is the commonest cause of CKD in our country.
    Dr Sanjeev Gulati
    Expand
  5. 5. Does Gender Have a Role to Play in Kidney Problems?

    The gender balance is unfairly tipped against women when it comes to kidney problems.

    Diseases like Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) are more common in women. Women are also more disposed to kidney diseases during pregnancy and hence careful monitoring should be done. The only silver lining is that CKD tends to progress slowly in women as compared to males.
    Dr Sanjeev Gulati
    The gender balance is unfairly tipped against women when it comes to kidney problems.
    The gender balance is unfairly tipped against women when it comes to kidney problems.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    In India, since women are accustomed to not taking care of themselves, adds the doctor, kidney disease in women is often under-reported. However, this has changed over the last couple of years as the number of women reaching out for medical help has gradually increased.

    Expand
  6. 6. And Before You Go, a Little Something on Kidney Cancer

    Kidney cancer is a condition in which the kidney cells become malignant and form tumours. It appears in the lining of tiny tubes which lie in the kidney.

    While this disease has primarily affected the elderly over decades, there is a growing incidence of this condition among younger people in India.
    While this disease has primarily affected the elderly over decades, there is a growing incidence of this condition among younger people in India.
    (Photo: iStockphoto altered by The Quint)

    While this disease has primarily affected the elderly over decades, there is a growing incidence of this condition among younger people in India. Nearly one-third of kidney cancer patients are below 50 years of age and nearly 12 percent of patients are less than 40 years.

    Research shows that increasing cancer incidence could be due to poor nutrition in Indians. Another factor is lack of awareness about this cancer which hinder them seeking medical opinion or to have a regular health check. Causes include smoking, hypertension, obesity, gender, genetics and diet. Click here to know more.

    (Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

    Expand

What are Some Lesser Known Facts About Kidneys?

Speaking with FIT, Dr Sanjeev Gulati, Director, Fortis Institute of Renal Sciences and Transplant (FIRST), points out that because we have two kidneys, does not mean we take things for granted. Stressing on the same concern, Dr Gulati mentions a kidney problem whose symptoms appear only after it has progressed to dangerous levels.

Because we have two kidneys, does not mean we take things for granted.
Because we have two kidneys, does not mean we take things for granted.
(Photo: iStockphoto)
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a silent killer and symptoms are few, non-specific and come very late. Hence most patients with CKD approach the nephrologist very late. We should not wait for symptoms to diagnose CKD. Once CKD is advanced and has reached Stage 5, dialysis or kidney transplant is the only option. At this stage, there is no role at all of any alternative therapies.
Dr Sanjeev Gulati

In India, kidney problems have reached a magnitude where more than 2.5 lakh patients need a new kidney every year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Beyond Diet, Exercise and Hydration, What Should We Keep in Mind?

A harmful activity that isn’t often linked with kidney problems is smoking. It needs to be quit immediately if you want to protect your kidneys, along with your lungs, points out Dr Gulati. Passive smoking is just as bad. Exposure to it can also raise the chances of CKD, which can lead to renal failure, according to a study.

A harmful activity that isn’t often linked with kidney problems is smoking.
A harmful activity that isn’t often linked with kidney problems is smoking.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

In addition to this, you need to watch out for your weight.

It directly puts pressure on your kidney filters besides also causing hypertension. If you have gained excessive weight in a short duration of time, you must consult a doctor and get screened for kidney disease.
Dr Sanjeev Gulati

It’s also important to avoid use of herbal medication. Until we have robust scientific data, it is advisable to avoid quacks who prescribe these untested preparations, says the doctor.

Are Kidney Stones on the Rise Among the Younger Population?

Yes, indeed they are on the rise, affirms Dr Gulati.

All types of kidney diseases, especially kidney stones, are rising among the younger population. In my experience from the previous decade, 5 percent of my patients with CKD were children. Now this number has nearly doubled in this decade. We are seeing many more pediatrics and teenage cases of CKD these days.
Dr Sanjeev Gulati

All of it is primarily related to a poor lifestyle that consists of junk food, high intake of salt and lack of physical activity. These, in turn, contribute to hypertension and excessive weight gain, along with increasing prevalence of diabetes. Among other things, diabetes has also been linked to kidney problems.

All of it is primarily related to a poor lifestyle that consists of junk food, high intake of salt and lack of physical activity.
All of it is primarily related to a poor lifestyle that consists of junk food, high intake of salt and lack of physical activity.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

It is widely known that patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes are at higher risks of renal injury and kidney disease. A study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, has found a strong association between lifestyle interventions like physical activity and prevention of chronic kidney diseases.

Air pollution too has emerged as an important and under-recognised factor in the rising prevalence of kidney diseases.

ADVERTISEMENT

Things to Watch Out for to Safeguard Yourself

Primarily, there are three things to be kept in mind:

  • Inappropriate or excessive use of painkillers: Dr Gulati strongly advises against this. Popping over-the-counter painkillers for headaches, back aches, tummy aches and other pain is not a good practice. The longer you pop pain killers without prescriptions, the more they can damage your kidney, he says.
    According to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, popping oral antibiotics too can up your risk of developing kidney stones.
Popping oral antibiotics too can up your risk of developing kidney stones.
Popping oral antibiotics too can up your risk of developing kidney stones.
(Photo: iStockphoto)
  • Uncontrolled blood pressure: This puts extra pressure on the kidneys.
It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, you must get your blood sugar and blood pressure checked on regular basis. In case you have high blood pressure (>120/80), please consult your doctor for need of any medications and monitor it periodically to ensure that it is in the target range.
Dr Sanjeev Gulati
  • Uncontrolled diabetes: This too causes kidney damage.
If you are diabetic, then please monitor your blood sugars regularly and consult your diabetologist. Diabetes is the commonest cause of CKD in our country.
Dr Sanjeev Gulati

Does Gender Have a Role to Play in Kidney Problems?

The gender balance is unfairly tipped against women when it comes to kidney problems.

Diseases like Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) are more common in women. Women are also more disposed to kidney diseases during pregnancy and hence careful monitoring should be done. The only silver lining is that CKD tends to progress slowly in women as compared to males.
Dr Sanjeev Gulati
The gender balance is unfairly tipped against women when it comes to kidney problems.
The gender balance is unfairly tipped against women when it comes to kidney problems.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

In India, since women are accustomed to not taking care of themselves, adds the doctor, kidney disease in women is often under-reported. However, this has changed over the last couple of years as the number of women reaching out for medical help has gradually increased.

ADVERTISEMENT

And Before You Go, a Little Something on Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is a condition in which the kidney cells become malignant and form tumours. It appears in the lining of tiny tubes which lie in the kidney.

While this disease has primarily affected the elderly over decades, there is a growing incidence of this condition among younger people in India.
While this disease has primarily affected the elderly over decades, there is a growing incidence of this condition among younger people in India.
(Photo: iStockphoto altered by The Quint)

While this disease has primarily affected the elderly over decades, there is a growing incidence of this condition among younger people in India. Nearly one-third of kidney cancer patients are below 50 years of age and nearly 12 percent of patients are less than 40 years.

Research shows that increasing cancer incidence could be due to poor nutrition in Indians. Another factor is lack of awareness about this cancer which hinder them seeking medical opinion or to have a regular health check. Causes include smoking, hypertension, obesity, gender, genetics and diet. Click here to know more.

(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

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