Look after your kidneys and they'll look after you

Chronic kidney disease soaring as population ages

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SILENT DISEASE: More than 40 per cent of people over the age of 75 have an indicator of chronic kidney disease

SILENT DISEASE: More than 40 per cent of people over the age of 75 have an indicator of chronic kidney disease


Less than 10 per cent of Australians aware they have signs of illness that kills two an hour.


Chronic kidney disease is more prevalent that many people realise, with about one in three Australians have an increased risk of developing this disease.

The problem is compounded with the growing ageing population as more than 40 per cent of people over the age of 75 have an indicator of the disease.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, some 10 per cent of Australian adults have signs of it.

But alarmingly, less than 10 per cent are aware of this.

Chronic kidney disease is called a "silent disease" as often there are no warning signs and it is not uncommon for people to lose up to 90 per cent of their kidney function before any symptoms are apparent.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia president George Tambassis said the kidneys were amazing organs and people generally should do a lot more to look after them.

"They are a very sophisticated and efficient waste disposal systems which sort the body's waste, 24/7, while also cleaning our blood," Mr Tambassis said.

"...Our blood supply circulates through the kidneys about 12 times every hour. Each day our kidneys process about 200 litres of blood. The kidneys make urine from excess fluid and filter unwanted chemicals or waste in our blood.

"There are some compelling reasons to look after our kidney health, not least of which is that people with chronic kidney disease have a two to threefold greater risk of cardiac death than people without the disease.

"While the mortality associated with many chronic diseases - including some cancers - is stable and even declining, kidney disease is rapidly escalating, killing two Australians every hour."

The major risk factors are diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, age (60 years or over), family history of the disease, or being an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Mr Tambassis said if chronic kidney disease was detected early and managed appropriately, the otherwise inevitable deterioration in kidney function could be reduced by as much as half and might even be reversible so it was important to be alert for symptoms.

"These symptoms can include high blood pressure, changes in the amount and number of times urine is passed, changes in the appearance of urine, blood in your urine, puffiness in your legs, ankles or around your eyes, tiredness and nausea - to name a few," he said.

"Kidney failure can happen quickly and at times can be caused by a sudden loss of large amounts of blood or as a result of an accident. However, more often kidney function worsens over a number of years."

Mr Tambassis said Kidney Heath Australia had some key recommendations on how to look after our kidneys which included:

  • Get your blood pressure checked regularly and make sure it stays below the levels recommended by your doctor.
  • If you have diabetes make sure you monitor your blood glucose levels and stay within your targets.
  • Lead an active, healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight
  • If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do, quit!
  • Eat wisely as it is important to maintain a healthy weight for your height
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce alcohol
  • Drink water

"Your community pharmacy can advise and counsel you on a range of lifestyle changes that may help you in trying to keep your kidneys healthy," he said.

"The staff at the pharmacy can also advise you on any medicines you are taking for your kidneys and discuss how they work, any possible interactions and answer any other questions you may have about the medicines and the disease."

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