By Crystal Gharini and Carmen Berglund, Saskatoon Health Region Chronic Kidney Disease Outreach Program

Our kidneys are fascinating organs. To celebrate and promote kidney health and raise awareness about chronic kidney disease, Saskatoon Health Region is celebrating World Kidney Day today, March 10, 2016.

The theme for this year’s World Kidney Day is, “Kidney Disease and Children. Act Early to Prevent it!”. While the focus is on children’s health and prevention, the goal is to educate people in hopes to reduce chronic kidney disease and to promote healthy lifestyles for everyone.

Carmen Berglund and Crystal Gharini.

Carmen Berglund , Nurse Clinician (left), and Crystal Gharini, Health Educator with the Chronic Kidney Disease Outreach Program, located in St. Paul’s Hospital, Saskatoon.

Kidneys are designed to function in such a unique way. We have two kidneys that are bean-shaped. They are located in the back on each side just under the rib cage. The kidneys’ main job is to work as a filter. Inside each kidney there are approximately one million nephrons which work to filter out the blood.

Our kidneys balance important minerals, electrolytes and vitamins. Another detail about your kidneys is that they help manage the amount of “substances that are in the blood such as urea, creatinine, potassium, calcium, and phosphates” (Living with Kidney Disease, Kidney Foundation of Canada, 4rth ed. pg. 1-5). Your kidneys work intricately with the rest of the organs to ensure optimum health. It is important that we are doing what we can to sustain the kidneys function.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada defines Chronic Kidney Disease as being, “the presence of kidney damage, or a decreased level of kidney function, for a period of three months or more (Living with Kidney Disease., Kidney Foundation of Canada, 4rth ed. pg. 2-1). There are five stages of chronic kidney disease. Each stage indicates what level an individual’s kidneys are functioning at. Stage 1 is very mild, while stage 5 is end-stage kidney disease. While there is no cure for any of these stages, there are options for treatment. The key is management and preventing further kidney function decline by incorporating significant healthy lifestyle changes.

When we hear about kidney disease, we usually think it only affects adults. While it may be true that many people in the world who get kidney disease are middle aged adults, we do need to worry about children as well. Kidney disease does not discriminate and it is known as the “silent killer.” Babies can be born with kidney disease and deformities in the urinary system, and have problems that need more immediate care. Some children are born with conditions that need to be monitored and cared for throughout their lives to prevent chronic kidney disease from developing. However, most children that are exposed to unhealthy lifestyles in return can develop chronic disease later in life. Things like hypertension and diabetes are often slow to progress. Likewise, the complications of these diseases (like heart, blood vessel, and kidney damage) also take years to happen, but the damage is not reversible!

The top two reasons for anyone to develop chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. As adults, our health can be compromised from having high blood pressure and diabetes which can cause kidney disease. This is no different for children as they are also at risk for these diseases. If a child has high blood pressure or diabetes, parents/guardians should have the child’s kidney function checked by their family doctor. Early detection of kidney disease is important and can help form the foundation for living healthy lifestyles. There is an online quiz that can help detect if an individual is at risk for chronic kidney disease. We urge you to visit the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s website to determine if you are at risk.

Kidney disease is more common than we think. Some facts about kidney disease are that “each day 15 people are told that their kidneys have failed.” As well as, “41,931 Canadians are being treated for kidney failure and 3x the number of Canadians receiving treatment for kidney failure has more than tripled in 20 years” (Facing the Facts about Kidney Disease, Kidney Foundation of Canada, 2016).

This is why education, prevention and promoting healthy lifestyles are essential. All adults can be role models in teaching children about physical activity, proper nutrition, and the dangers of tobacco/drugs and alcohol. Remember; they see everything we do. We encourage you to think about ways you can create a positive change and promote healthy lifestyles for the best interest of the children and youth of today, because the future is today.

For further information on kidney health please visit the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s website or feel free to contact the Region’s Chronic Kidney Disease Program at (306) 655-5683 or toll free at 1-866-407-1927.