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Kidney Health 2020

How to reduce your risk of developing kidney disease

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The Kidney Charities Together Group

Despite affecting around three million people in the UK, in its early stages, kidney disease can be hard to detect because there may be no obvious symptoms. In fact, many people don’t realise how important their kidneys are until they stop working properly.

Growing up in the Caribbean, Patricia Gooden suspected she had symptoms of diabetes from as young as 13 years old, but it remained undetected and was not diagnosed until she had moved to the UK and was pregnant with her second child. Patricia managed her diabetes with insulin but, fifteen years later, her health took a sudden turn for the worse. She did not realise that she had developed chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Despite having type 2 diabetes (a known risk factor for CKD), it took three years for her kidney disease to be diagnosed. She describes it as ‘three years of suffering’, with prolonged vomiting, numerous tests, the removal of her gall bladder, a lack of communication between GPs and hospitals and, worst of all, medical staff not taking her seriously. It had a big impact not just on her, but her family, who had to take her to hospital every week for months.

Today, Patricia uses her experience of struggling to get a diagnosis, of managing dialysis and looking after her transplanted kidney, to inform the voluntary work she carries out to support other kidney patients. “I don’t want anyone to have the horrible experience I had,” she says.

How you can reduce your risk

There are several easy ways to reduce the risk of developing and/or managing the progression of kidney disease. Some small changes in behaviour and lifestyle can have enormous health benefits:

  • Monitor your blood pressure – High blood pressure accelerates kidney damage. To protect yourself from kidney disease you should also maintain a diet low in salt and saturated fats
  • Keep fit and active – This helps reduce your blood pressure and therefore reduces the risk of developing kidney disease
  • Don’t smoke – Smoking slows blood flow to the kidneys, decreasing their ability to function properly
  • Eat healthily and keep your weight in check – This can help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with kidney disease
  • Get your kidney function tested regularly – This is sensible if anyone in your family has suffered from kidney disease, if you have diabetes or have high blood pressure or are severely overweight
  • Keep well hydrated – This helps the kidneys clear toxins from the body, which can significantly lower the risk of developing kidney disease and reduce urinary tract infections.

The Kidney Charities Together group is calling for greater awareness of chronic kidney disease in the UK. They are encouraging people living with kidney disease to share their experiences of why #KidneysMatter on social media, to share World Kidney Day materials with their friends and family, and to run local awareness events.

Thursday 12th March 2020 marks the fifteenth time that World Kidney Day has been celebrated. The day gives us a chance to shine a light on kidney disease and help raise awareness of the impact it has on peoples’ lives. The focus in the UK for 2020 is ‘Kidneys Matter – the BIG topic everyone is ignoring’, highlighting those who are at risk of kidney disease and how we can help them be diagnosed sooner. The Kidney Charities Together Group co-ordinates the activity in the UK. The Group consists of Kidney Care UK, Kidney Research UK, the National Kidney Federation, the Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Charity, the British Renal Society and the Renal Association.

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