The Kidneys: Know, Understand & Care For Your Kidneys

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The kidneys are two bean shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are located just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine. The kidneys help to filter blood removing unwanted waste products and the extra fluid in the blood. Everyday, the two kidneys filter about 120-150 litres of blood to produce 1-2 litres of urine. Urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder.

Why Are The Kidneys Important?

The kidneys are important because they keep the composition/make-up of the blood stable (This stability is referred to homeostasis). The following are the functions of the kidney

  1. The kidneys prevent the build-up of waste and extra fluid in the body
  2. They keep levels of certain chemicals stable (sodium, potassium and phosphate)
  3. The kidneys make hormones that help: regulate blood pressure, make blood cells and bones stay strong

Kidney Diseases

Kidney disease describes any problems that one may have when their kidneys aren’t functioning properly. These diseases may be minor or severe, but one must take steps to control them.

Symptoms of Kidney Diseases

Kidney disease usually does not have symptoms in the early stages. However, here are a few symptoms associated with kidney diseases:

  • Edema: swelling as a result of the kidney’s inability to get rid of extra fluid and salt. Edema can occur in the legs, feet and ankles.
  • Appetite loss & weight loss,
  • Trouble concentrating,
  • Drowsiness or feeling tired,
  • Dry skin & darkened skin,
  • Muscle cramps,
  • Increased or decreased urination,
  • Generalized itching & numbness,
  • Nausea & vomiting,
  • Shortness of breath,
  • Chest pain.

Causes of Kidney Disease

  1. High blood pressure and Diabetes are the two leading causes of kidney diseases in black people. Therefore undiagnosed high blood pressure and diabetes could lead to kidney diseases. Black people suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate than other races (about four times the rate of caucasians). Black people are more likely than caucasians to have high blood pressure and its related kidney problems- even when their blood pressure is mildly elevated.
  2. Heavy metal poisoning (such as lead poisoning from long-term exposure to petrol, paint & batteries, mercury poisoning in miners and users of skin bleaching creams, as well as mercury containing soaps).
  3. Congenital causes (condition present at birth).
  4. Use of expired medications such as tetracycline antibiotic.
  5. Sickle cells diseases.
  6. Some traditional herbal medicine.
  7. Infections (Malaria, skin and throat infections).
  8. Pesticides used in farming.

How does High Blood Pressure Affect the Kidney?

Blood pressure measures the force of blood pushing outwards on your arterial walls. It is the pressure exerted on the artery walls by circulating blood. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, as well as other organs of the body, reducing their ability to work properly. When the force of blood flow is high, blood vessels stretch so blood flows more easily. Eventually, this stretching scars and weakens blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the kidneys. If the kidneys’ blood vessels are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from the body. Extra fluid in the blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more, creating a dangerous cycle.

Complications Associated With Kidney Diseases

  • Fluid retention, which could lead to swelling in your arms and legs, high blood pressure, or fluid in your lungs
  • Heart attack, heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease)
  • Weak bones and an increased risk of bone fractures
  • Anemia
  • Decreased sex drive or impotence
  • Damage to your brain which can cause difficulty concentrating, personality changes, seizures or stroke
  • Decreased immune response, which makes you more vulnerable to infection
  • Pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac-like membrane that envelops your heart (pericardium)
  • Pregnancy complications that carry risks for the mother and the developing baby
  • Kidney Failure – Irreversible damage to your kidneys (end-stage kidney disease), eventually requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival.

Can kidney disease be treated?

In the very early stages, kidney disease may need little or no treatment. However, kidney disease also raises your risk of heart disease and stroke, and your doctor will want to ensure that this risk is as low as it can be.

Controlling your blood pressure is an important way to reduce kidney disease, and to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Your doctor will want to ensure that your blood pressure is lower than 140/90 mmHg, and in some cases as low as 130/80 mmHg

Certain high blood pressure medications are best for people who have developed kidney disease because they help protect the kidneys against further damage. If these medicines do not lower your blood pressure enough then other blood pressure medicines can be used.

If you have diabetes as well as high blood pressure, it is extremely important to keep this controlled. Diabetes can cause serious damage to your kidneys if it is not treated properly.

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a treatment that does some of the things done by healthy kidneys. It is needed when you have kidney failure and your own kidneys can no longer take care of your body’s needs. When your kidneys fail, dialysis keeps your body in balance by:

  • Removing waste, salt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body,
  • Keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in your blood
  • Helping to control blood pressure

 LIFELINE - South African Dialysis Treatment Survivors!

Preventing Kidney Disease

A few lifestyle changes could be made to prevent kidney diseases. These changes includes:

  • Eat a better diet, including reducing salt. – eat less fat and saturated fat as well as more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods.
  • Enjoy regular physical activity – 30 minutes a day
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Manage stress – Don’t let stress build up. The chemicals your body makes in response to stress make your heart beat harder and faster and your blood vessels tighten. All this makes blood pressure higher
  • Avoid tobacco smoke & limit alcohol.
  • Comply with medication prescriptions.

Author Zaidat Ibrahim

Zaidat gained her Bachelors Degree from a U.S College and she currently works at 11198984_972734182745608_117787137_nMassachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. She also works as an Editor for Opportunity Desk and volunteers for several organizations through the UNV. She is known for her hard work, commitment and most of all, her beaming smiles.

Hypertension: What You Need to Know

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The human heart pumps blood through the body. Pressure is generated to forcefully push blood through the walls of the arteries, this pressure is called blood pressure. Blood pressure is written as two numbers, for example 112/78 mm Hg (mm Hg= millimeters of mercury).

The top number (112, in our example) is called systolic pressure, and this is pressure when the heart beats. The bottom number (78, in our example) is the pressure when the heart rests between beats). The optimal blood pressure is less than 120mm Hg and 80mm Hg. Therefore, High blood pressure means the pressure in the arteries is elevated.

Normally, the heart beats regularly pumping blood through the vessels all over the body. As the blood is pushed by the heartbeat, the blood in turn pushes against the sides of the vessels. Blood vessels are flexible and can be widen or constrict as needed to keep the blood flowing. For a variety of reasons, blood may begin to push too hard against the blood vessels. This is high blood pressure.

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Why should you be concerned about high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is very dangerous! It makes the heart work too hard and the high force of the blood flow could damage the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, eyes and other organs in the body causing severe health problems

Debunking Myths About High Blood Pressure

#1. High blood pressure runs in my family and there’s nothing I can do about it, I will get it too.

It is true that high blood pressure can run in a family and that a history of high blood pressure places one at risk of developing high blood pressure as well. Regardless of family history, lifestyle choices could help you avoid high blood pressure.

#2. People with high blood pressure have symptoms like headaches, sweating & difficulty sleeping. I don’t have those symptoms so I must not have high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a ‘silent killer’, it has no symptoms so you may not be aware that it’s damaging your arteries, heart and other organs. Don’t make a mistake assuming that symptoms will alert you of high blood pressure, instead, everyone should makes efforts to check their blood pressure and know their numbers.

#3. Stress and anxiety can cause hypertension

There is no scientific proof that stress leads to high blood pressure. .However, .If one is already diagnosed with high blood pressure then stressful situations can temporarily elevate one’s blood pressure.

Ways of Preventing High Blood Pressure.

  1. Eat a better diet which includes reducing salt intake. Stick to the D-A-S-H eating plan.
  • DASH means Dietary-Approaches-to-Stop-Hypertension. Thus eating plan was designed by the National Institute of Health, USA. The DASH plan includes less saturated fat (such as palm oil) and less total fat, less beef and pork, as well as eating more fruits and vegetables, fat free/low fat milk, more fish, more poultry, more beans and whole grain foods.
  • Limiting the use of salt and alcohol can also help lower or prevent high blood pressure.
  • If possible, meet with a dietician or nutritionist to help you figure out a better and healthier eating plan
  1. Exercise: exercise or enjoy a regular physical activity, make sure you do this at least 30 minutes per day
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure
  3. Manage stress. The chemicals in the body responses to stress that makes your heart beat harder or faster and your blood vessels tighten.
  4. Avoid tobacco smoke- including cigarettes, cigars and all forms of tobacco
  5. Limit the use of alcohol
  6. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, take your medications according to your doctor’s prescription

Author Zaidat Ibrahim

Zaidat gained her Bachelors Degree from a U.S College and she currently works at 11198984_972734182745608_117787137_nMassachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. She also works as an Editor for Opportunity Desk and volunteers for several organizations through the UNV. She is known for her hard work, commitment and most of all, her beaming smiles.

Welcome to The HealthZone!

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Welcome to The HealthZone blog! The HealthZone is a 30-minute television health magazine program that focuses on the delivery of health education on the most common ailments affecting the Nigerian population in simple terms that anyone can understand. The show features a panel of nationally and internationally acclaimed consultant specialists in each of the medical conditions of focus. Each week our physician expert moderator, Dr. Toju, facilitates an in-depth discussion of a particular medical condition with a guest specialist. Follow our blog to learn more about the most common diseases affecting the Nigerian and how you can take preventive measures against them. The HealthZone will premiere on Channels TV, April 1st, 2015 at 6:30pm. Thirteen (13) episodes of the show’s first season will then air Wednesdays at 6:30pm on topics ranging from kidney disease to diabetes and malaria. Notable guests include Dr. Ebun Bamgboye, Dr. Akan Otu, Dr. Efunbo Dosekun, Dr.Yemi Johnson, Dr. Femi Fasanmade, Prof Frank Ojini and Dr. Chito Nwana.

Welcome

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Nigeria's Health situation is well documented with Nigeria lagging behind regional and global peers across most health indices.  Healthcare challenges abound across all delivery sectors: inadequate health facilities for in/outpatient and emergency care; prevalence of infectious diseases; increasing impact of non-communicable diseases; high maternal and child mortality; etc. Access to basic health information and awareness is an important but missing element in the solution set. A well informed public will be positioned to take preventive care actions that can significantly improve health outcomes.