Your Health

How to keep your kidneys healthy

Graphic of a torso x-ray showing two kidneys.
Photo of Dr. Bunmi Fatoye. LESLEY COTSIANIS
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, May 5, 2017

When it comes to chronic disease, kidneys are probably not the first thing to come to mind.

But the reality is one in ten Manitobans have some degree of kidney disease and Manitoba has the highest rates of kidney disease in Canada.

Every year, there are more Manitobans with kidney failure getting treatment in our hospitals, and it’s expected to get worse. The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy has predicted that the number of individuals with kidney failure could grow by 60 per cent between 2012 and 2024.

Even though kidneys may not be top of mind, they are vital to our health.

Kidneys keep us healthy by filtering and removing waste and excess fluid from the body. When kidneys are damaged through diabetes, high blood pressure or other causes, this is called kidney disease and it can lead to kidney failure.

Without treatment, kidney failure can cause death.

The problem is kidney disease is sneaky – happening silently without a person knowing it.  There are often no symptoms of kidney disease until kidneys have lost nearly all their function. At this point, the signs may be foaming, bloody or cloudy urine and/or swelling of the body and limbs.

This is why it’s important to talk about kidney health before there is a problem. There are easy ways to find out how your kidneys are doing and to keep your kidneys healthy for as long as possible. Here are a few tips:

  • Visit your doctor for regular check-ups. In Manitoba, your family doctor can see how your kidneys are functioning in the lab results of your routine blood and urine tests. They can also use this information to find out your risk of future kidney failure.
  • Manage your diabetes. High blood sugar damages kidneys and is a leading cause of kidney failure in Manitoba.
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy blood pressure is for you. High blood pressure causes kidney damage and is the second leading cause of kidney failure in Manitoba.
  • Know if you have a family history of kidney disease. If someone in your family had/has kidney disease, you are at risk of kidney disease as well.
  • Take medications as prescribed and ensure your doctor is aware of any over-the-counter medications you take regularly so they can limit or prevent any potential impact on kidney health.
  • Like with many other chronic diseases, it’s suggested that people stop smoking, eat healthy, limit alcohol, aim for a healthy body weight and be active.

In most cases, people who have kidney disease will eventually require dialysis – a life-sustaining treatment done several times a week, if not every day, that rids the body of wastes and fluid that the kidneys would normally get rid of. The only other options for people who have kidney failure are a kidney transplant or palliative care.

But the important thing to remember is that when kidney disease is diagnosed early, there are many ways to manage it and keep your kidneys healthy for as long as possible. This is the most important goal for Manitoba – to catch kidney disease early and keep people from needing treatments like dialysis or an organ transplant.

So, remember, talk to your doctor about your kidneys and learn more about what you can do to keep them healthy by visiting www.kidneyhealth.ca.

Lesley Cotsianis is Kidney Health Outreach Manager with the Manitoba Renal Program. This column was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, May 5, 2017.

By the Numbers

  • Over 5,150 stage one to five kidney disease patients
  • Over 1,550 dialysis patients
  • Between 2010 and 2017 the dialysis patient population grew by almost 35%
  • 22% of dialysis patients are using home dialysis
  • Average yearly cost per patient for in-centre dialysis is $60,000 in urban centres and $130,000 in rural/remote centres
  • In 2016 there were 57 kidney transplants done in Manitoba (done through Transplant Manitoba – Gift of Life)

Source: Manitoba Renal Program

 

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