Frustrated and Wondering

You’ve seen it all over the book’s Facebook page and on Twitter.  Yesterday was my birthday, my 66th birthday to be exact.  “I feel good.  I knew that I would,” as James Brown sings when someone calls me.  But what does my, uh, advanced age mean to my kidneys?James Brown

According to my nephrologist, I would lose 1/2 % of my kidney function each year since I was older.  Interesting… and wrong.  I’ve gained between 9 and 21 points on my GFR in the last five years.  It does vary depending on numerous factors: diet, sleep, exercise, stress, illness.

I had my blood drawn two weeks ago and the results told me that my GFR was 52, down from the 64 it had been only three months before. My primary care doctor told me not to worry about this lower number since I had clearly been incubating the flu at the time of the draw.

Here’s something you haven’t heard from me in a while (she wrote tongue in cheek): that got me to thinking.  What do illness – other than chronic kidney disease – and age have to do with your Glomerular Filtration Rate, a widely accepted indication of just how well your kidneys are functioning?

I found the following chart on The National Kidney Foundation’s website at http://www.kidney.org/professionals/kls/pdf/12-10-4004_KBB_FAQs_AboutGFR-1.pdf

      Average Measured GFR by Age in People Without CKD 

AGE  (Years)                   Average Measured GFR (mL/min/1.73 m2)

20-29                                                      116

30-39                                                      107

40-40                                                        99

50-59                                                        93

60-69                                                        85

70+                                                           75

Notice this is for people without CKD.   Now I’m not a mathematician, as we all know, but if those without our disease lose almost ten points of their GFR each decade they age, why am I not surprised that we who do have Chronic Kidney Disease are expected to be lose the same number of points?

By the way, that does take into account the 1/2% a year I would be losing on my GFR – according to my nephrologist – due to age.  But it’s just not happening.

This is a good place to mention that a reader was infuriated that her nephrologist never told her to double her rate to see where she was on the charts.  She previously had a kidney removed due to cancer and was living with one kidney.

Until she was given that information, she thought she should be on par with those living with two kidneys and was aghast as how low her GFR was.  I can see where her ire would rise (as well as her blood pressure from all that unnecessary worry).

I have been researching for hours and the only answers I’ve found to the question of how the flu affected my GFR were on forums or pay-an-expert-for-a-medical-answer sites.

kidney anatomySorry, folks, I just don’t trust them.  I will be seeing my nephrologist this week and will make it a point to ask him.

When I had the flu, my nephrologist told me to go right ahead and take the over the counter medications my primary physician had suggested and in the dosages recommended on the labels.  He did caution that I not take anything with the letter  ‘d’ in the name since that might raise my blood pressure.

Here’s what DaVita at http://www1.davita.com/3617 has to say about that:

When the flu season hits, the use of treatments for cold and flu soars. These medications often include compounds that can intensify

hypertension and salt retention. Should you require a product to treat cold and/or flu symptoms, it is strongly recommended that you

take them as prescribed by your doctor and carefully read the package instructions.

Notice we still don’t know if the flu affects the GFR.  Although, logically, if hypertension (high blood pressure) affects your kidneys and these medications may raise your blood pressure… perhaps that means they lower your GFR?

These are the kinds of questions that sent me running to interview different nephrologists, rather than trying to research my answers on the internet, when I was writing the book.

Attempting to research these questions brought me to this chart on the site of The National Kidney Disease Education Program – which is a part of The U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services – at http://www.nkdep.nih.gov/learn/testing/understand-gfr.shtml.GFR

I have included it here due to its clarity.  Seeing numbers written doesn’t always make it obvious just what the guidelines are, especially for those of us who think we’re not that good at math.

I certainly do not mean to beg the issue, but I’m getting nowhere looking for definitive answers as to how my age and any other illness such as the flu affect CKD.

We can all see how age and illness affect us as far as appearance, physical use of our body, and even shrinkage (Proof: I am ½ inch shorter due to the compression of the discs between my vertebrae), as well as the coughing, sneezing, and body aches of the flu.

Apparently, you have to be a doctor, or have the vocabulary of one, to be able to understand the connection of these conditions to your GFR.

On another note, The Southwest Nephrology Conference is on March 1 & 2 at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Resort in Chandler.  That is simply too close to ignore.  I am thinking about going to meet all the specialists I’ve corresponded with from different parts of the country in person.

Could I interest any of you in joining me?  You can read more information about the conference at http://swnc.org/

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I keep forgetting to mention the book!  Since I no longer do book signings or book talks, the only way to get the information out there is for you to buy books for your friends and family.

Hey!  I’m donating as fast as I can! (Wait until my accountant hears about that.)

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I wrote a book on my son’s kidney failure. Every bit of awareness counts.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your son. Did you have the information in my book before he got to that point? I just find it so hard to understand that there wasn’t a book like mine when I wrote it. We need this information to prevent kidney failure as long as we can.


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