Protect your kidneys, save your heart

 World Kidney Day is celebrated on 10 March, and this year’s theme – protect your kidneys, save your heart – is of particular importance in Cayman where the high level of chronic kidney disease is a serious concern.

With this in mind, the Health Services Authority is embarking on a series of activities to promote prevention and early detection of chronic kidney disease.

“Chronic kidney disease has a very high prevalence in the Cayman Islands,” says Dr Nelson Iheonunekwu, Internist/Nephrologist with the HSA. “We have a very high number of patients on dialysis when compared to our population – approximately one patient per 1,000 people. It’s a little sad, because in larger countries like Japan and the UK, the incidence is much lower.”

Worldwide, more than five per cent of the adult population has some form of kidney damage, and every year millions die prematurely of cardiovascular diseases linked to chronic kidney disease.

High blood pressure is present in approximately 80 per cent of chronic kidney patients. Elevated blood pressure places stress on the blood vessels throughout the body, including the kidneys which inhibits them from functioning properly.

Treatment of high blood pressure has become the most important intervention in the management of all forms of chronic kidney disease, and lowering blood pressure reduces the risk of heart disease, which for most patients with chronic kidney disease, is a more immediate threat than the renal disorder.

Kidney disease can be detected early with a simple laboratory test, which is essential to enable the appropriate treatment before kidney damage or cardiovascular problems occur.

The kidneys’ function is to balance the salt intake naturally occurring in foods with normal body needs. Increased salt intake can lead to water retention, and eating as we do, many people accumulate more salt and water than their kidneys can handle.

The prevention of chronic kidney disease is a matter of a healthy lifestyle: regular exercise, eating the correct portions of food, reducing salt in the diet and not smoking can have a profound impact on blood pressure and overall health. Weight loss of as little as eight to ten pounds can also have a dramatic impact on blood pressure, as can reducing consumption of alcohol.

Medication is essential in the maintenance of health for many patients and may be used for controlling high blood pressure, cholesterol and the treatment of symptoms like anaemia.

“We will be educating the public on chronic kidney disease in several ways,” Dr Nelson says. “We will also be conducting free screenings on World Kidney Day in the atrium of the Cayman Islands Hospital, checking blood pressure, blood sugar and doing urine tests. In addition, we will be hosting continuing medical education sessions for local healthcare professionals and inviting a cardiologist to speak on this year’s theme,” he says.
The hospital’s dialysis unit will have an open house for school children, “hoping to familiarise them with what is happening so that they will begin from now to acquire healthy habits,” he says.

“In view of the increasing prevalence of chronic kidney disease and the serious health and financial impact, we feel strongly that it is in the greater public interest that we at the HSA highlight the importance of protecting our kidneys.”