HIV and CKD

Every morning, although I don’t have enough energy yet to create original posts, I peruse the Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease pages, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn for current information about CKD. I was surprised to see a post seeming to claim that Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can cause CKD. How had I never heard about this before?

As usual when I don’t know or understand something, I decided to investigate. My first stop was The National Institutes of Health at https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/26/99/hiv-and-kidney-disease.

  • “The kidneys are two fist-sized organs in the body that are located near the middle of the back on either side of the spine. The main job of the kidneys is to filter harmful waste and extra water from the blood. (We know that already.)
  • Injury or disease, including HIV infection, can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure and diabetes are the leading causes of kidney disease. In people with HIV, poorly controlled HIV infection and coinfection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) also increase the risk of kidney disease.
  • Some HIV medicines can affect the kidneys. Health care providers carefully consider the risk of kidney damage when recommending specific HIV medicines to include in an HIV regimen.
  • Kidney disease can advance to kidney failure. The treatments for kidney failure are dialysis and a kidney transplant. Both treatments are used to treat kidney failure in people with HIV.”

Well, I knew there was a possibility of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) leading to CKD, but HIV? What’s that? Oh, sorry, of course I’ll explain what HIV is. Actually, it’s not me doing the explaining, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html.

“HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

No effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART.  If people with HIV take ART as prescribed, their viral load (amount of HIV in their blood) can become undetectable. If it stays undetectable, they can live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.”

So, it’s not only HIV itself that can cause CKD, but also the drugs used to treat HIV.

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/hiv-and-chronic-kidney-disease-what-you-need-know  offers some ideas about how to avoid CKD if you have HIV:

“Many people with HIV do not get kidney disease or kidney failure. Talk to your health care provider about your chances of getting kidney disease. If you have HIV, you can lower your chances by:

  • Checking your blood pressure as often as your doctor recommends and taking steps to keep it under control
  • Taking all your HIV medications as prescribed
  • Asking your doctor about HIV drugs that have a lower risk of causing kidney damage
  • Controlling your blood sugar if you have diabetes
  • Taking medicines to control your blood glucose, cholesterol, anemia, and blood pressure if your doctor orders them for you
  • Asking your doctor to test you for kidney disease at least once each year if you:
    • Have a large amount of HIV in your blood
    • Have a low level of blood cells that help fight HIV (CD4 cells)
    • Are African American, Hispanic American, Asian, Pacific Islander, or American Indian
    • Have diabetes, high blood pressure, or hepatitis C”

It seems to me that avoiding CKD if you have HIV is almost the same as taking care of your CKD if you didn’t have HIV, except for the specific HIV information.

I now understand why it’s so important to take the hepatitis C vaccine. I turned to UpToDate at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-chronic-hepatitis-c-virus-infection-in-the-hiv-infected-patient for further information about hepatitis C and HIV.

“The consequences of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in HIV-infected patients are significant and include accelerated liver disease progression, high rates of end-stage liver disease, and shortened lifespan after hepatic decompensation, in particular among those with more advanced immunodeficiency …. In the era of potent antiretroviral therapy, end-stage liver disease remains a major cause of death among HIV-infected patients who are coinfected with HCV ….”

Remember that drugs leave your body via either your liver or kidneys. If your kidneys are already compromised by HIV or the medications used to treat your HIV, you need a high functioning liver. If your liver is compromised by hepatitis C, you need high functioning kidneys. I was unable to determine just what high functioning meant as far as your kidneys or liver, so if you find out, let us know.

Please be as careful as possible to avoid HIV, and if you do have it, pay special attention to being treated for it. I’d like it if you were one of the people who is “diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced [so that you] can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

More Time to Learn

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life. Cancer does that… and it leaves me a lot of time in bed to explore whatever I’d like to on the internet. So now I’m discovering all these – what’s the word? – possibly peripheral? diseases that affect the kidneys. For example, while I don’t have the energy to post a new Chronic Kidney Disease picture on Instagram every day, I do check the site daily and like what appeals to me and learn from what’s new to me.

That’s where I noticed posts about Bartter syndrome. If you’re like me, you want to know about something you’ve never heard of before. Let’s explore this together.

I went directly to my old friend, MedlinePlus, which is part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000308.htm for a definition and the causes:

“Bartter syndrome is a group of rare conditions that affect the kidneys.

Causes

There are five gene defects known to be associated with Bartter syndrome. The condition is present at birth (congenital). The condition is caused by a defect in the kidneys’ ability to reabsorb sodium. People affected by Bartter syndrome lose too much sodium through the urine. This causes a rise in the level of the hormone aldosterone, and makes the kidneys remove too much potassium from the body. This is known as potassium wasting. The condition also results in an abnormal acid balance in the blood called hypokalemic alkalosis, which causes too much calcium in the urine.”

It looks like there are a few terms here we may now be familiar with. Let’s take a look at aldosterone. The Hormone Health Network from the Endocrine Society at https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/aldosterone tells us:

“Aldosterone is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys…. Aldosterone affects the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure. It sends the signal to organs, like the kidney and colon, that can increase the amount of sodium the body sends into the bloodstream or the amount of potassium released in the urine. The hormone also causes the bloodstream to re-absorb water with the sodium to increase blood volume. All of these actions are integral to increasing and lowering blood vessels. Indirectly, the hormone also helps maintain the blood’s pH and electrolyte levels.”

And hypokalemic alkalosis? What is that? Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/alkalosis#types  gave me the answer: “Hypokalemic alkalosis Hypokalemic alkalosis occurs when your body lacks the normal amount of the mineral potassium. You normally get potassium from your food, but not eating enough of it is rarely the cause of a potassium deficiency. Kidney disease, excessive sweating, and diarrhea are just a few ways you can lose too much potassium. Potassium is essential to the proper functioning of the:

  • heart
  • kidneys
  • muscles
  • nervous system
  • digestive system”

Hmmm, so kidney disease can cause you to lose too much potassium, which can then interfere with the proper functioning of your kidneys. Doesn’t sound good to me. But, remember that the condition is congenital and will show up at birth.

Let’s say it does. Then what? According to Verywellhealth at https://www.verywellhealth.com/bartter-syndrome-2860757:

“Treatment of Bartter syndrome focuses on keeping the blood potassium at a normal level. This is done by having a diet rich in potassium and taking potassium supplements if needed. There are also drugs that reduce the loss of potassium in the urine, such as spironolactone, triamterene, or amiloride. Other medications used to treat Bartter syndrome may include indomethacin, captopril, and in children, growth hormone.”

Food rich in potassium? I’m sure bananas came directly into your mind but there are others. I chose to use the National Kidney Foundation’s list of high potassium foods at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium since this is a blog about CKD.What foods are high in potassium (greater than 200 milligrams per portion)? The following table lists foods that are high in potassium. The portion size is ½ cup unless otherwise stated. Please be sure to check portion sizes. While all the foods on this list are high in potassium, some are higher than others.

High-Potassium Foods
Fruits Vegetables Other Foods
Apricot, raw (2 medium) dried (5 halves) Acorn Squash Bran/Bran products
Avocado (¼ whole) Artichoke Chocolate (1.5-2 ounces)
Banana (½ whole) Bamboo Shoots Granola
Cantaloupe Baked Beans Milk, all types (1 cup)
Dates (5 whole) Butternut Squash Molasses (1 Tablespoon)
Dried fruits Refried Beans Nutritional Supplements: Use only under the direction of your doctor or dietitian.
Figs, dried Beets, fresh then boiled
Grapefruit Juice Black Beans
Honeydew Broccoli, cooked Nuts and Seeds (1 ounce)
Kiwi (1 medium) Brussels Sprouts Peanut Butter (2 tbs.)
Mango(1 medium) Chinese Cabbage Salt Substitutes/Lite Salt
Nectarine(1 medium) Carrots, raw Salt Free Broth
Orange(1 medium) Dried Beans and Peas Yogurt
Orange Juice Greens, except Kale Snuff/Chewing Tobacco
Papaya (½ whole) Hubbard Squash
Pomegranate (1 whole) Kohlrabi
Pomegranate Juice Lentils
Prunes Legumes
Prune Juice White Mushrooms, cooked (½ cup)
Raisins Okra
Parsnips
Potatoes, white and sweet
Pumpkin
Rutabagas
Spinach, cooked
Tomatoes/Tomato products
Vegetable Juices”

I also have a list of food sensitivities, so I avoid those foods. If you do, too, you might want to cross those foods off your high potassium foods list if you just happen to have Bartter syndrome.

Time for a few personal notes here. Thank you all for your well wishes and good cheer. Via a clinical trial, I have been able to shrink the pancreatic cancer tumor by two thirds and bring my blood tumor marker down to BELOW normal. This raises my chances for a successful Whipple surgery from 50% to 70% and that’s before another round of chemotherapy with radiation added. Hopeful? You bet! I also wanted to remind you that the SlowItDownCKD series makes a wonderful graduation, wedding, and Father’s Day gift for those new to Chronic Kidney Disease, those not new to Chronic Kidney Disease, and those who would like to share CKD with others in their lives.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’m Finally Ready to Let National Kidney Month Go

As you already know, I’ve been posting the chapter I contributed to the book 1in9 as my contribution to National Kidney Month. This will probably be the final post of that chapter, unless I decide to post the biography that goes along with the chapter at a later date.

Most of you are aware that I now have pancreatic cancer and the chemo effects are getting in my way. I’m hoping that I’ll not be feeling them so severely in the near future and will be able to research some new material for you. Right now, that’s just not possible. You may have noticed that my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages no longer contain original posts. That’s due to the same reason.

But let’s complete the book chapter:

When I was diagnosed back in 2008, there weren’t that many reader friendly books on anything having to do with CKD. Since then, more and more books of this type have been published. I’m laughing along with you, but I don’t mean just SlowItDownCKD 2011, SlowItDownCKD 2012 (These two were The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, until I realized how unwieldy both the book and the title were – another learning experience), SlowItDownCKD 2013, SlowItDownCKD 2014 (These two were formerly The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2), SlowItDownCKD 2015, SlowItDownCKD 2016, and SlowItDownCKD 2017. By the way, I’m already working on SlowItDownCKD 2018. Each book contains the blogs for that year.

I include guest blogs or book review blogs to get a taste of the currently available CKD news. For example, 1in9 guest blogged this year. Books such as Dr. Mandip S. Kang’s, The Doctor’s Kidney Diets (which also contains so much non-dietary information that we – as CKD patients – need to know), and Drs. Raymond R. Townsend and Debbie L. Cohen’s 100 Questions & Answers about Kidney Disease and Hypertension.

I miss my New York daughter and she misses me, so we sometimes have coffee together separately. She has a cup of coffee and I do at the same time. It’s not like being together in person, but it’s something. You can find support the same way via Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease Support Groups. Some of these groups are:

Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness

Chronic Kidney Disease in India

CKD (Kidney Failure) Support Group International

Dialysis & Kidney Disease

Friends Sharing Positive Chronic Kidney Disease

I Hate Dialysis

Kidney Disease Diet Ideas and Help

Kidney Disease Ideas and Diets1

Kidney Disease is not a Joke

Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Transplant

Kidney Warriors Foundation

Kidneys and Vets

Mani Trust

Mark’s Private Kidney Disease Group

P2P

People on Dialysis

Sharing your Kidney Journey

Stage 3 ‘n 4 Kidneybeaners Gathering Place

The Transplant Community Outreach

UK Kidney Support

Women’s Renal Failure

Wrap Up Warm for Kidney Disease

What I hit over and over again in the blogs is that diabetes is the foremost cause of CKD with hypertension as the second most common cause. Simple blood and urine tests can uncover your CKD – if you’re part of the unlucky 96% of those in the early stages of the disease who don’t know they have it.

Each time I research, I’m newly amazed at how much there is to learn about CKD…and how many tools you have at your disposal to help slow it down. Diet is the obvious one. But if you smoke or drink, stop, or at least cut down. If you don’t exercise, start. Adequate, good quality sleep is another tool. Don’t underestimate rest either; you’re not being lazy when you rest, you’re preserving whatever kidney function you have left. I am not particularly a pill person, but if there’s a medication prescribed that will slow down the gradual decline of my kidney function, I’m all for it.

I was surprised to discover that writing my SlowItDownCKD book series, maintaining a blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts of the same name are not enough for me for me to spread the word about CKD screening and education. I’m determined to change this since I feel so strongly that NO ONE should have this disease and not be aware of it.

That’s why I’ve brought CKD awareness to every community that would have me: coffee shops, Kiwanis Clubs, independent bookstores, senior citizen centers, guest blogging for the likes of The American Kidney Fund and The National Kidney Foundation, being interviewed by publications like the Wall Street Journal’s Health Matters, The Center for Science in The Public Interest, and The United Federation of Teachers’ New York Teacher, and on podcasts such as The Renal Diet Headquarters, Online with Andrea, The Edge Podcast, Working with Chronic Illness, and Improve Your Kidney Health.

I’ve been very serious about sharing about CKD before it advances to end stage… meaning dialysis. To that end, I gathered a team for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona Kidney Walk one year. Another year, I organized several meetings at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Education is vital since so many people are unaware they even have the disease.

You can slow down the progression of the decline of kidney function. I have been spending a lot of time on my health and I’m happy to say it’s been paying off. There are five stages. I’ve stayed at the middle one for over a decade despite having both high blood pressure and diabetes. That’s what this is about. People don’t know about CKD. They get diagnosed. They think they’re going to die. Everybody dies, but it doesn’t have to be of CKD. I am downright passionate about people knowing this.

Thanks for taking the time to finish the chapter. The more people who know about Chronic Kidney Disease, the more people can tell others about it. I’d hate for anyone to be part of the 90% of those with CKD who don’t know they have it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

So That’s How It’s Done

Readers have asked me repeatedly how foundations to raise awareness of kidney disease are started. You know my story: I developed Chronic Kidney Disease, didn’t understand what my nephrologist was saying so researched the disease, then decided to share my research with others who needs plain talk or reader friendly explanations. Hello, books, the blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and my website. But I’m not a foundation; I’m just me doing what I can.

Back to the original question: How do foundations begin? Let’s keep in mind that we’re not talking about the biggies like the National Kidney Foundation here.

Well, remember the AAKP Conference back in June that I keep referring to? You meet a lot of people there. One fellow I met is Scott Burton who started his own kidney awareness foundation. I put the question to him. Ready? Here’s his answer.

How do you sum up 36 years of a constant back and forth struggle? Of a lifetime searching for a reason as hope fades a little more each day? How do you not get sick on this roller coaster called life? Simple answer, you don’t have a choice, so you push forward and try to find some positive in the negative, some hope in the hopeless and, ultimately, just try to live each day a little better than the last and make a positive impact. See, this isn’t a story with a fairytale happy ending, but most stories worth reading (or watching), don’t have fairytale endings; rather, they are stories that are relatable and sometimes left open ended.

This isn’t a guest blog about me or my battle, but rather one introducing the positive that has come from the negatives. That positive comes in the form of The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation which pulls from my background in marketing and video production. It just made sense to try to raise awareness and shed some light on kidney disease in the best way I know how: with real people telling real stories about real experiences in a casual and comfortable format.

That began the journey to today, a journey that began on March 3rd, 2016, when The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation was officially launched. The foundation is committed to raising awareness and shedding light on kidney disease through the creation of video content distributed via the web and social media. With many hopes and plans for the future, we are pushing forward as time and funds are available to create new content and keep things moving.

What I envisioned when setting out and establishing The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation was a resource of media content to both shed light on kidney disease to the general public  – which usually doesn’t give their kidneys a second thought – as well as creating a place for patients to find a little bit of comfort with their own battles. By telling patients’ stories, highlighting struggles and accomplishments, and also highlighting research in the field, we can create a place of inspiration and hope. While we have several video series at various stages of development in the works, our primary focus right now is ramping up our mini-documentary web series as funding allows.

We launched with two Public Service Announcements that went live in May of 2016. These two were centered around the National Kidney Foundation’s statistic, “13 people die every day waiting for a kidney transplant,” with a combined viewership of just over 30,000 views on Facebook & YouTube.

In March of 2017, we launched the first episode of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life,” which is a web mini-documentary series of patients telling their stories in their own words. To date, four episodes of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life” have been posted online, with just under 50,000 views spread across Facebook and YouTube.

In the coming months, we will also be releasing the first three episodes of a companion to the patient series, telling living donor stories with more episodes of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life” to follow later this year. Additionally, we released the first video of what will grow to a regular series highlighting research focused on University of California, San Francisco, & The Kidney Project.

That’s the basic plan and history of The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation, with lots of projects in the works and plans to continue to grow. Everything comes down to funding and continuing to grow our network. We are constantly looking for new patients to highlight in our videos, and building a database of contact info for future episodes. To view our videos and learn more about the organization, follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/foreveristomorrowfoundation) & subscribe on YouTube (www.youtube.com/c/TheForeverisTomorrowFoundation).

Thank you, Scott, for explaining the inside workings of starting a foundation to raise awareness for kidney disease. Here’s hoping we get a bunch of readers commenting to tell us they borrowed from your structure to begin such foundations of their own and/or are interested in sharing their stories with  you. Note: The Facebook page has some of the most interesting information on kidney innovations that I’ve read about. Take a look for yourself.

On another note, KidneyX is looking for our input. This is from the email they sent me:

“We seek your feedback on how the KidneyX project can best spur innovation in preventing, diagnosing, and/or treating kidney diseases. While we encourage all relevant comments, we are interested particularly in responses to the following questions. You may respond to some or all of the questions:

  1. What unmet needs – including those related to product development—should KidneyX prize competitions focus on? If you have ideas for more than one topic area/issue, how would you rank them in order of importance? If you are a person living with a kidney disease, what makes these topic areas for product development important?
  2. What assistance or services might HHS and ASN offer to KidneyX prize winners that would encourage the greatest participation from a broad range of innovators?
  3. In what ways might HHS and ASN, through KidneyX, effectively encourage collaboration or cooperation between participants/prize winners while respecting their intellectual property rights?
  4. Particularly for those interested in participating in a KidneyX prize competition but unfamiliar with kidney functions and diseases, what information would you find it most useful for HHS and ASN to share publicly?”

You can submit your comments using the title “KidneyX Project Comment” by their September 14 deadline at:

E-Mail: please send responses to KidneyX@hhs.gov.

Mail: please send mail to
KidneyX c/o Ross Bowling
200 Independence Avenue SW, Room 624D
Washington, D.C., 20201

You don’t need to be a kidney patient to respond; you can also be an innovator.

This is, without a doubt, the most businessish (Love the writer’s license to initiate new words, don’t you?) blog I have posted to date. I hope it was both helpful and interesting to you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Coming Home

I’m not a joiner. I’ve never been one. That’s why I was so surprised that I joined the American Association of Kidney Patients… and even more surprised to find myself attending this year’s conference in Tampa Bay, Florida. Readers had been suggesting I do so for years, but I’m not a joiner. Let’s change that; I wasn’t a joiner. The AAKP conference made the difference.

What’s that you ask? Of course, you need to know what they are. This is from their website at https://aakp.org/,

THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF KIDNEY PATIENTS SINCE 1969™

The American Association of Kidney Patients is dedicated to improving the quality of life for kidney patients through education, advocacy, patient engagement and the fostering of patient communities.

Education

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) is recognized as the leader for patient-centered education – continually developing high quality, professionally written, edited and reviewed educational pieces covering every level of kidney disease.

Advocacy

For nearly 50 years, AAKP has been the patient voice – advocating for improved access to high-quality health care through regulatory and legislative reform at the federal level. The Association’s work has improved long term outcomes in both quality of health and the ability for patients and family members affected by kidney disease to lead a more productive and meaningful life.

Community

AAKP is leading the effort to bring kidney patients together to promote community, conversations and to seek out services that help maximize patients’ everyday lives.

An IRS registered, Sec. 501(C)(3) organization, AAKP is governed by a Board of Directors. The current board is comprised of dialysis patients, chronic kidney disease patients, [Me here: You did notice ‘chronic kidney disease patients,’ right?] transplant recipients, health care professionals and members of the public concerned with kidney disease. The board and membership are serviced by a staff of five employees under the direction of Diana Clynes, Interim Executive Director, at the AAKP National Office located in Tampa, Florida.”

What’s not mentioned here is that the organization was started by only six patients. I find that astounding, but I’ll let them explain their history:

Founded by Patients for Patients

King County Hospital, New York

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) has a rich history in patient advocacy and kidney disease education. AAKP started in 1969 with six dialysis patients at King County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. They wanted to form an organization that would elevate the kidney patient voice in national health care arena, provide patients with educational resources to improve their lives and give kidney patients and their family members a sense of community. They met twice a week in the hospital ward and while hooked up to primitive dialysis machines for 12 to 18 hours at a time they brainstormed, researched and eventually formed AAKP.

The group originally called themselves NAPH (National Association of Patients on Hemodialysis, which later changed to AAKP). AAKP joined forces with other patient groups to fight for the enactment of the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program, testifying before congressional committees, seeking public support and creating a newsletter (the forerunner of today’s AAKP RENALIFE) to keep everyone informed. This effort was crowned with success in 1972 when Congress enacted the program that continues to provide Medicare funding for dialysis and kidney transplantation.

After winning the initial and critical battle for the Medicare ESRD Program, AAKP turned its attention to other important issues — the need to establish a secure national organization to preserve the visibility and influence of patients with Congress and to develop national, educational and supportive programs.

Today & Beyond

AAKP has grown into a nationally recognized patient organization that reaches over 1 million people yearly. It remains dedicated to providing patients with the education and knowledge necessary to ensure quality of life and quality of health.”

This former non-joiner has found her association. I originally avoided the conferences because I thought they would be focused only on dialysis and transplant patients. Boy, was I ever wrong. Here are some of the outbreak (small group) sessions that dealt with other aspects of kidney disease:

Social Media (You’re right: I signed up for that one right away since I identify as a CKD awareness advocate.)

Dental Health

How Kidney Disease Impacts Family Members

Managing the Early Stage of CKD

Understanding Clinical Trials

Treatment Options

Staying Active

Veterans Administration

Caregiver’s Corner

Living Well with Kidney Disease

Avoid Infections

Of course, there were many outbreak sessions for dialysis and transplant patients as well. And there were two opportunities to lunch with experts. That’s where I tentatively learned about governmental aspects of our disease. There were opportunities to learn about nutrition, medications, working, and coping. I’ve just mentioned a few of the 50 different topics discussed.

The general sessions, the ones everyone attended, informed us of what the government’s national policy had to do with kidney disease, legislation, nutrition, patient centered care, and innovation in care (Keep an eye out for Third Kidney, Inc.’s August guest blog.).

I have not covered even half of what was offered during the conference. Did I mention renal friendly food was available and you could dialyze near the hotel if need be? The exhibitors went beyond friendly and explaining their products to being interested in who you were and why you were there. This was the most welcoming conference I’d been to in decades.

AAKP President Paul Conway summed up my feelings about the conference when he was interviewed by The Tampa Bay Times on the last day of the conference,

“This meeting is a way for us to bring patients together and educate them on trends that could affect their own health.”

I met so many others who have kidney disease and so many others who advocate for different types of kidney disease and patients’ rights. I was educated about so many areas, especially those I previously had known nothing about, for example, legislation. It was like coming home. Would I attend again? You bet’cha. Would I urge you to attend? At the risk of being redundant, you bet’cha.

I was so excited about AAKP that I almost didn’t leave myself enough space to tell you about yet another freebie. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 is no longer in print since it has been divided into SlowItDownCKD 2011 and SlowItDownCKD 2012. But I still have a desk copy. Let me know if you’d like it. My only restriction is that you have not received a free book from me before.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Taming the Wild Weed

I know someone who is a kidney donor. That’s actually how we met. I went to a conference to learn what I could learn and she was there at the invitation of the presenters. I was drawn to her right away not knowing who she was or why she was there… something about her magnetic personality, I think. That was years ago and since then I’ve attended her social media workshop and followed her closely on Instagram. Now she’s involved with medical marijuana. That got me to thinking.

So I did a little searching. Back in 2013, the National Kidney Foundation answered a reader’s question in their Ask the Doctor blog by responding more to the smoking than the marijuana:
“Smoking is not good for any person. Smoking is not safe for any person. I know of no specific ill effects of marijuana on the kidney.”

It seemed to me something must have been discovered about medical marijuana and chronic kidney disease in the last four years, so I kept digging and found this 2014 article from Phoenix New Times at http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/arts/can-i-get-a-medical-marijuana-card-for-chronic-kidney-disease-6577499:

“Medical-grade cannabis can help with pain management, but there are still alternating schools of thought as to whether weed helps or hurts the kidneys. Claims that marijuana injures the kidneys often point to smoking as a damaging factor, but there are alternative methods of ingesting cannabis, including vaporizing, tinctures, and infusing the drug into food.

Additionally, a joint study by the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta concluded that, ‘Even small improvements in symptoms with the use of THC: CBD [cannabinoids, the active ingredients in cannabis] in patients with difficult-to-treat symptoms may be clinically meaningful.’

It seems, if you avoid smoking it, much more evidence exists that cannabis can help with the side effects of CRD, including nausea, loss of appetite, and weight loss.”

CRD means Chronic Renal Disease, an alternative name for CKD.

Well, that’s a bit more informative, but still, three years old. By now I was curious to know how marijuana worked in the first place. United Patients Group at https://unitedpatientsgroup.com/resources/how-medical-marijuana-works had the answer and the date on their site was only last year.

“Major Cannabinoids in Medical Marijuana

What THC Is and Its Effects

THC stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol. It is probably the best known cannabinoid present in medical marijuana. Physically it acts as a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory and psychologically it acts as a stimulant. This makes medical marijuana strains high in THC a good choice for patients who need relief while also to remain alert and active.

THC in medical marijuana acts in the following ways:
• anti-epileptic
• anti-inflammatory
• anti-depressant
• stimulates appetite
• lowers blood pressure
• apoptosis (self induced cell death)

What CBD Is and Its Effects

CBD stands for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol actually reduces the psychological effects of medical marijuana. For most patients, a strain that has high THC and high cannabidiol will have fewer “mental” effects and more physical ones. High cannabidiol medical marijuana strains, like Blueberry and Harlequin, are especially effective for illnesses with strong physical symptoms.

Cannabidiol’s effects include:
• reduced pain
• reduced anxiety
• reduced nausea
• sedative effects
• anti-convulsive
• anti-schizophrenic
• arrests the spread of cancer

What CBN Is and Its Effects

CBN is cannabinol, not to be confused with Cannabidiol. Cannabinol is very similar to THC, but has less psychological effects. It is produced as THC breaks down within the medical marijuana plant. High THC will make cannabinol’s effects stronger, and very high cannabinol concentrations can produce undesirably strong head highs.

Cannabinol levels tend to be high in medical marijuana strains like Strawberry Haze and Blue Rhino, which can be particularly helpful for:
• lowering pressure in the eye (such as with glaucoma)
• analgesic
• anti-seizure

What CBC Is and Its Effects

CBC stands for cannabichromene. Cannabichromene’s main action is to enhance the effects of THC. High cannabichromene levels will make a high-THC medical marijuana strain much more potent.

Cannabichromene working together with THC is known to be a:
• sedative
• analgesic
• anti-inflammatory

What CBG Is and Its Effects

CBG is an abbreviation for cannabigerol. Cannabigerol has no psychological effects on its own, and is not usually found in high amounts in most medical marijuana. Scientists believe that cannabigerol is actually one of the oldest forms of cannabinoids, meaning it is essentially a “parent” to the other cannabinoids found in medical marijuana. It also has anti-microbial properties.

Cannabigerol has physical effects such as:
• lowering pressure in the eye
• anti-inflammatory
• sedative
• sleep assistance

Combining Strains

Alone, none of the five major cannabinoids are as effective as when they work together. These five cannabinoids also work with the minor compounds in marijuana, and this is probably one reason that medical marijuana replacements like Marinol do not work very well.

Professional medical marijuana growers can analyze their medical marijuana strains to breed and grow medication for patients with the desired range of levels of each major cannabinoid. Using this knowledge of what each compound does helps medical marijuana pharmacists, or budtenders, find the right combination for patients to treat specific conditions and find maximum relief.”

I am not at a point where I would consider medical marijuana since my only symptoms are occasional brain fog and tiredness. Should I be experiencing the kind of pain some CKD users do, I would revisit this decision but I’d have to keep in mind that using this substance could hurt my chances of a transplant.

According to Joshua L. Rein, DO and Christina M. Wyatt, MD of the Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY as stated in their research study at http://www.ajkd.org/article/S0272-6386(17)30810-7/, as of this year:

“Twenty-nine US states have established medical marijuana programs, 8 of which have also legalized recreational marijuana, and Canada is expected to legalize recreational marijuana in 2018. Advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are chronic conditions with significant associated morbidity and mortality.”

Don’t get confused. Medical marijuana is not a cure for CKD and is not suggested as one. However, should you have need of pain relief, it may offer you some… IF you live in a place where it is legal and IF your doctor thinks it’s a good option for you.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Sex?

I know, I know. When you see that question on an application, you want to answer ‘yes,’ but you’re only given the choice of male or female. Well, at least that’s my experience. Okay, got that out of the way.

Way back in 2011, the following was included in my first Chronic Kidney Disease book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. This was way before the website, Facebook page, the blog, the Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Way before the articles, radio shows, and interviews, book signings, and talks about CKD. Come to think of it, this was way before SlowItDownCKD was born.

I haven’t found too much about sex that’s different from the problems of non-CKD patients although with this disease there may be a lower sex drive accompanied by a loss of libido and an inability to ejaculate. Usually, these problems start with an inability to keep an erection as long as usual. The resulting impotency has a valid physical, psychological or psycho-physical cause.

Some of the physical causes of impotence, more recently referred to as Erectile Dysfunction [E.D.] for a CKD patient could be poor blood supply since there are narrowed blood vessels all over the body. Or maybe it’s leaky blood vessels. Of course, it could be a hormonal disturbance since the testicles may be producing less testosterone and the kidneys are in charge of hormones….

While E.D. can be caused by renal disease, it can also be caused by diabetes and hypertension. All three are of importance to CKD patients. Sometimes, E.D. is caused by the medications for hypertension, depression and anxiety. But, E.D. can also be caused by other diseases, injuries, surgeries, prostate cancer or a host of other conditions and bodily malfunctions. Psychologically, the problem may be caused by stress, low self-esteem, even guilt to name just a few of the possible causes….

Women with CKD may also suffer from sexual problems, but the causes can be complicated. As with men, renal disease, diabetes and hypertension may contribute to the problem. But so can poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, stress and sexual abuse. Any chronic disease can make a man or a woman feel less sexual….

Common sense tells us that sex or intimacy is not high on your list of priorities when you’ve just been recently diagnosed….

Sometimes people with chronic diseases can be so busy being the patient that they forget their partners have needs, too. And sometimes, remembering to stay close, really close as in hugging and snuggling, can be helpful….

Well, what’s changed since I was writing What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease? in 2010?

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/sexuality now includes the following on their website:

It’s important to remember that people with kidney failure can have healthy marriages and meaningful relationships. They can fall in love, care for families, and be sexual. Staying intimate with those you love is important. It’s something everyone needs.

Many people think that sexuality refers only to sexual intercourse. But sexuality includes many things, like touching, hugging, or kissing. It includes how you feel about yourself, how well you communicate, and how willing you are to be close to someone else.

There are many things that can affect your sexuality if you have kidney disease or kidney failure — hormones, nerves, energy levels, even medicine. But there are also things you and your healthcare team can do to deal with these changes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get help from a healthcare professional.

DaVita at https://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/living-with-ckd/sexuality-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4895 also offers advice:

Once again, it’s important to remember, you are not alone.

There are no limits with regard to sexual activities you may engage in as a patient with renal disease, as long as activity does not place pressure or tension on the access site, causing damage. (Me: This is for advanced CKD.)

If you are sexually active, practicing safe sex and/or using birth control are needed, even if you think you may be physically unable to have children.

Activities such as touching, hugging and kissing provide feelings of warmth and closeness even if intercourse is not involved. Professional sex therapists can recommend alternative methods as well.

Keeping an open mind and having a positive attitude about yourself and your sexuality may lower the chances of having sexual problems.

There are both medical and emotional causes for sexual dysfunction. The reason for your dysfunction can be determined through a thorough physical exam in addition to an assessment of your emotional welfare and coping skills.

Relaxation techniques, physical exercise, writing in a journal and talking to your social worker or a therapist can help you to feel better about your body image and/or sexual dysfunction.

Resuming previous activities, such as dining out or traveling, as a couple or single adult, can be helpful.

Provide tokens of affection or simple acts of kindness to show you care.

Communicate with your partner or others about how you feel.

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada at file:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Packages/Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/Sexuality%20and%20CKD.pdf, these may be the causes of sexual problems in CKD.

Fatigue is a major factor. Any chronic illness is tiring, and chronic kidney disease, which is often accompanied by anemia and a demanding treatment, practically guarantees fatigue.

Depression is another common issue. Almost everyone experiences periods of depression, and one of the symptoms of depression is loss of interest in sexual intimacy.

Medications can also affect one’s ability or desire to have intercourse. Since there may be other medications which are just as effective without the side effect of loss of sexual function or desire, talk to your doctor about your pills.

Feelings about body image Having a peritoneal catheter, or a fistula or graft, may cause some people to avoid physical contact for fear of feeling less attractive or worrying about what people think when they look at them. (Me: Again, this is for late stage CKD.)

Some diseases, such as vascular disease and diabetes, can lead to decreased blood flow in the genital area, decreased sexual desire, vaginal dryness and impotence.

It looks like the information about CKD and sexuality hasn’t changed that much, but it does seem to be more available these days.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Shocked

When I checked my phone messages this morning, I saw one from the wife of someone I have known and loved my whole life. That shook me. The message was from his wife, not him. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it until after I’d had a cup of coffee and fed Shiloh, our dog.

It was bad news. He was in the hospital on life support. I was shocked. Immediately, I felt nausea and a band started to tighten around my head. I noticed my voice was rough as I tried to process what his wife was telling me.

She did an exemplary job of explaining what had happened step by step and including what will happen at the hospital now. After reassuring myself that she had friends around her to support her while she’s emergency central, so to speak, we hung up…and I tried to go through my usual early morning routines.

I knew it wasn’t working when I took the wash out of washing machine, put it back in the washing machine, and started the empty dryer. I knew it wasn’t working when I fed the dog I’d just fed.

So I retreated to the library to start the daily ‘kidney work’: checking email, texts, and LinkedIn for messages from readers; posting on Instagram and Facebook; and perusing Twitter for articles that might interest you. I was having trouble concentrating. Maybe thinking about what I’d write in today’s blog would be more productive.

It was obvious, wasn’t it? I’d write about what shock does to your body and to your kidneys.

In befuddedly casting around on the internet for information, I found this at http://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/7-warning-signs-acute-stress-reaction-emotional-shock.htm.

By Harley Therapy January 23, 2014 Anxiety & stress, Counselling  

…. While it’s true you aren’t in “medical shock” – an acute circulatory condition where blood pressure falls so severely that multiple organ failure can occur – you are still in a medically recognised kind of shock.

Psychological shock, a form of psychological trauma, is the body’s very real stress response to experiencing or witnessing an overwhelming and/or frightening event….

You might feel as if your brain has turned to mush, or you have ‘brain fog’….

Life might even feel unreal, as if you are disconnected, floating slightly outside of your body and watching yourself carry on doing things. This is called dissociation….

When your brain decides that there is ‘danger’ around, it triggers the primal ‘fight, flight, or flight’ response. Back when we were ‘cave people’ these responses where helpful, but nowadays the overload of adrenaline they involve just leave you with a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, and random aches and pains….

Sleep is often affected by emotional shock. Insomnia is common. Even if you are sleeping more than ever, you are unlikely to get quality sleep but might suffer disturbed sleep, full of stress dreams. It’s common to develop ‘night panic attacks’ where you wake up suddenly with a racing heart and severe anxiety….

I could identify with this. It seemed I had to correct the spelling of every other word today. My husband was trying to pin down dates for a California trip and I was responding with dates for a New York trip. The doorbell rang, so I answered the phone. You get the idea. I’ve already mentioned the particular headache and the nausea. But what about my kidneys? What was happening to them?

The Medical Dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/shock+organs, defines shock as “a sudden disturbance of mental equilibrium.” That is a pretty accurate description of what happened when I returned that phone call this morning.

The same site goes on to explain that shock “is associated with a dangerously low blood pressure.” And blood pressure, of course is:

pressure that is exerted by the blood upon the walls of the blood vessels and especially arteries and that varies with the muscular efficiency of the heart, the blood volume and viscosity, the age and health of the individual, and the state of the vascular wall

Thank you to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blood%20pressure for that definition.

Notice the word “arteries.” Arteries also run into the kidneys. The following is from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.

Your kidneys have about a million nephrons, which are those tiny structures that produce urine as part of the body’s waste removal process. Each of them has a glomerulus or network of capillaries. This is where the blood from the renal artery is filtered.

In other words, when you’re in shock – even if it’s emotional shock – the pressure of your blood can be dangerously low. But low blood pressure may also lead to Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). Uh-oh, I remember writing about that in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2.

….Chronic Kidney Disease is a risk factor for acute kidney injury, acute kidney injury is a risk factor for the development of Chronic Kidney Disease, and both acute kidney injury and Chronic Kidney Disease are risk factors for cardiovascular disease…. Not surprisingly, the risk factors for AKI {Once again, that’s acute kidney injury.} are the same as those for CKD… except for one peculiar circumstance. Having CKD itself can raise the risk of AKI 10 times. Whoa! If you’re Black, of an advanced age {Hey!}, or have diabetes, you already know you’re at risk for CKD, or are the one out of nine in our country that has it. Once you’ve developed CKD, you’ve just raised the risk for AKI 10 times.

Let me make sure you (and I) understand that this is the worst case scenario. A few thoughts about how cardiovascular disease and the kidneys interact before I get on the phone to check on my beloved friend again. This is from a study that was included in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1.

“The brain and kidney are both organs that are affected by the cardiovascular systems,” said the study’s lead author, Adam Davey, associate professor of public health in Temple’s College of Health Professions and Social Work. “They are both affected by things like blood pressure and hypertension, so it is natural to expect that changes in one organ are going to be linked with changes in another.”

You can find the article at http://www.EurekAlert!.org/pub_releases/2012-11/tu-dkf111312.php

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Updated

 

 

 

You may have seen the pictures of the updates we’ve been making to our home on Facebook or Instagram. Now, it seemed to me that if I could update my home, I could update SlowItDownCKD’s social media. So I did. The website at www.gail-raegarwood.com is totally SlowItDownCKD now, as are the Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts. Of course, the blog was next. I liked my updates, but realized some of the new organizations on the blogroll (the list to the right of the blog) may be unknown to you.

No problem. I’ll just introduce them to you. Allow me to make the introductions…

We’ll go alphabetically down the roll here. The American Association of Kidney Patients, The American Kidney Fund, and The American Society of Nephrology are not new. Just in case you need a reminder of what each is, I’ve linked their titles to the organization. Just click on one of them to go to their websites, as you usually do for any title on the blogroll.

This brings us to The International Federation of Kidney Foundations. This is directly from the young (established 1999) organization’s website:
The International Federation of Kidney Foundations leads the way in the prevention and treatment of kidney disease, through its Membership on all continents around the world. The Federation was formed to foster international collaboration and the exchange of ideas that will improve the health, well-being and quality of life of individuals with kidney disease. We hope to achieve this by advocating for improved health care delivery as well as adopting and disseminating standards of best practice of treatment and care. We facilitate education programs for member organisations, promote research, communicate with other organisations and exchange ideas, particularly those concerning fund raising….
The IFKF helps facilitate the establishment of more kidney foundations and to help existing foundations become more dynamic and effective. Worldwide, most individuals with chronic kidney disease or hypertension are not diagnosed until long after the illness has developed. Moreover, when they are diagnosed they are too often treated sub-optimally or not at all. In many parts of the world, once end stage kidney failure occurs, patients do not have access to dialysis or kidney transplantation.
IFKF members join together with ISN members and kidney patient associations, to celebrate World Kidney Day annually in March, to influence general physicians, primary healthcare providers, health officials and policymakers and to educate high risk patients and individuals.

I’ve been interested in the global effects of Chronic Kidney Disease since I started preparing for Landmark’s 2017 Conference for Global Transformation at which I presented this past May. Writing two articles for their journal opened my eyes- yet again – to the fact that this is not just a local problem, but a worldwide problem. That’s why I included Kidney Diseases Death Rate By Country, On a World Map in the blogroll. I mapped out the statistics I found here on a trifold map to exhibit at the conference. Seeing the numbers spread all over the world was startling, to say the least.

Here is their 2015 global CKD information:
In 2015, the Asian nations of India and China fared the worst when it came to the number of deaths due to this degenerative health condition per thousand people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data (I’m interrupting. Would you like a link to WHO on the blogroll?), India had the highest number of kidney diseases deaths. The data put the figure at an astounding 257.9 per 1,000 people. China had the second highest number of deaths due to kidney diseases. Here, the number stood at 187.4 per 1,000 people. Though not as bad as the two Asian nations, the United States was also grappling with the problem of kidney diseases deaths in 2015. The nation had 59.8 deaths (per 1,000 people) due to kidney diseases, while Indonesia, which occupied the fourth place, had an estimated 43 deaths (per 1,000 people) due to kidney diseases. Nations such as Egypt, Germany, Mexico, Philippines, Brazil, Thailand and Japan reported deaths between 20 and 40 (per 1,000 people) due to kidney-related diseases. But, on the positive side, there were many nations in the world where a negligible number of people died due to kidney diseases. It is a noteworthy fact that countries such as Maldives, Vanuatu, Iceland, Grenada, Comoros, Belize, and many others, reported a zero figure in 2015.

But then I wanted to cover more localized information about CKD, so I included The National Chronic Kidney Disease, Fact Sheet, 2017. This is basically facts with pictograms that make the information about the United States’ CKD information more visual and easier to grasp. The information is more distressing each year the site is updated.

Fast Stats

• 30 million people or 15% of US adults are estimated to have CKD.*

• 48% of those with severely reduced kidney function but not on dialysis are not aware of having CKD.

• Most (96%) people with kidney damage or mildly reduced kidney function are not aware of having CKD.

After several sites that are not new, the last new site, other than direct links to SlowItDownCKD’s kidney books, is The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America. Why did I include that? Take a look at their website. You’ll find this there:
The Kidney & Urology Foundation focuses on care and support of the patient, the concerns of those at risk, education for the community and medical professionals, methods of prevention, and improved treatment options.
What Sets Us Apart?
The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America is comprised of a dedicated Executive Board, medical advisors, educated staff and volunteers who provide individualized support to patients and their families. Adult nephrologists and transplant physicians comprise our Medical Advisory Board, Board – certified urologists serve on the Urology Board, and pediatric nephrologists and urologists represent the Council on Pediatric Nephrology and Urology.
We are a phone call or e-mail click away from getting you the help you need to cope with a new diagnosis, a resource for valuable information on kidney or urologic diseases, a window into current research treatment options or a link to a physician should you need one.

Are there any organizations I’ve left out that you feel should be included? Just add a comment and I’ll be glad to take a look at them. I am convinced that the only way we’re going to get any kind of handle on Chronic Kidney Disease as patients is by keeping each other updated.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

How Did It Get Political?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Dr. Amy D. Waterman at UCLA’s Division of Nephrology’s Transplant Research and Education Center. We’d met at Landmark’s 2017 Conference for Global Transformation. She has brought to the world of dialysis and transplant the kind of education I want to see offered for Chronic Kidney Disease. I also asked for ideas as to how I could help in developing this kind of contribution to CKD awareness… and the universe answered.

First the bad news, so you can tell when the good news come in. Here in the U.S., The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/news/national-kidney-foundation-statement-macarthur-amendment-to-american-health-care-act issued the following statement on May 3 of this year:
“The National Kidney Foundation opposes the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as amended. The amendment to AHCA, offered by Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), raises significant concerns for millions of Americans affected by chronic diseases. If this bill passes, National Kidney Foundation is highly concerned that insurers in some states will be granted additional flexibility to charge higher premiums, and apply annual and lifetime limits on benefits without a limit on out-of-pocket costs for those with pre-existing conditions, including chronic kidney disease. The bill also permits waivers on Federal protections regarding essential health benefits which could limit patient access to the medications and care they need to manage their conditions. These limits could also include access to dialysis and transplantation. For these reasons, we must oppose the legislation as amended.


In addition, National Kidney Foundation is concerned that the elimination of income based tax credits and cost sharing subsidies, combined with the reduction in funds to Medicaid, will reduce the number of people who will obtain coverage; many of whom have, or are at risk for, chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

The world sees what stress Trump is causing our country (as well as our planet.) Yet, there is hope in the form of a new bill.

“… the bill — introduced in the House by Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania), John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) — aims to:
• Have the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issue a series of recommendations to Congress on “how to increase kidney transplantation rates; how palliative care can be used to improve the quality of life for those living with kidney disease; and how to better understand kidney disease in minority populations” – to back federal research efforts;
• Create an economically sustainable dialysis infrastructure and modernized quality programs to improve patient care and quality outcomes — for instance, by creating incentives to work in poorer communities and rural areas;
• Increase access to treatment and managed care for patients with a confirmed diagnosis of kidney disease by ensuring Medigap coverage for people living with ESRD, promoting access to home dialysis and allow patients with ESRD to keep their private insurance coverage.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 660,000 Americans are receiving treatment for ESRD. Of these, 468,000 are undergoing dialysis and more than 193,000 have a functioning kidney transplant.”

Thank you to the CDC at bit.ly/2rX8EG5 for this encouraging news. Although it’s just a newly introduced bill at this time, notice the educational aspects of the first point.
For those outside the U.S, who may not know what it is, this is how Medicare was defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease “U.S. government health insurance for those over 65, those having certain special needs, or those who have end stage renal disease.”

An interview with Trump while he was campaigning last year was included in SlowItDownCKD 2016, (11/14/16) This is what he had to say about medical coverage for those of us with pre-existing conditions like CKD. (Lesley Stahl is the well-respected interviewer.)
“Lesley Stahl: Let me ask you about Obamacare (Me here: that’s our existing health care coverage.), which you say you’re going to repeal and replace. When you replace it, are you going to make sure that people with pre-conditions are still covered?
Donald Trump: Yes. Because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.’ ….
What does the president elect say about Medicare? Those of us over 65 (That’s me.) have Medicare as our primary insurance. I am lucky enough to have a secondary insurance through my union. How many of the rest of us are? By the way, if Medicare doesn’t’ pay, neither does my secondary.”

This is from the same book:
“Here’s what Trump had to say in a rally in Iowa on December 11th of last year (e.g. meaning 2015).
‘So, you’ve been paying into Social Security and Medicare…but we are not going to cut your Social Security and we’re not cutting your Medicare….'”

We do not have the most truthful president here in the U.S., so you can see how even the introduction of the Marino, Lewis, Roskam bill is good news for us. While this is not meant to be a political blog, our pre-existing illness – our CKD – has caused many of us to unwittingly become political.


I see myself as one such person and so will be attending the AAKP Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, in September. What’s the AAKP you ask? Their Mission Statement at https://aakp.org/mission/ tells us:

“The American Association of Kidney Patients is dedicated to improving the quality of life for kidney patients through education, advocacy, patient engagement and the fostering of patient communities.

Education
The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) is recognized as the leader for patient-centered education – continually developing high quality, professionally written, edited and reviewed educational pieces covering every level of kidney disease.

Advocacy
For more than 40 years, AAKP has been the patient voice – advocating for improved access to high-quality health care through regulatory and legislative reform at the federal level. The Association’s work has improved long term outcomes in both quality of health and the ability for patients and family members affected by kidney disease to lead a more productive and meaningful life.

Community
AAKP is leading the effort to bring kidney patients together to promote community, conversations and to seek out services that help maximize patients’ everyday lives.”

For those of you of can’t get to the Conference, they do offer telephone seminars. The next one is June 20th. Go to https://aakp.org/aakp-healthline/ for more information.

Talking about more information, there will be more about AAKP in next week’s blog.
Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Ratio: Is That Like Rationing?

urine containerA friend called me Friday night wondering what her creatinine/albumin ratio meant since that reading was high on her last blood draw. Actually, she wanted to know if this was something to worry about. After extracting a promise that she would call her doctor with her questions today when her physician’s office opened for business again, I gave her some explanations. Of course, then I wanted to give you the same explanations.

Although the Online Etymology Dictionary tells us both ratio and rationing are derived from the same Latin root – ratio – which means “reckoning, calculation; business affair, procedure,” also “reason, reasoning, judgment, understanding,” they aren’t exactly the same. My old favorite, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ratio at dictionaryhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratio in the following way: the relationship in quantity, amount, or size between two or more things, as in that of your creatinine and albumin.

As for rationing, if you’re old enough to remember World War II, you know what it means. If you’re not, the same dictionary can help us out again. At https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rationing, we’re told it’s “a share especially as determined by supply.” Nope, doesn’t work here since we’re not sharing our creatinine or albumin with anyone else. We each have our own supply in our own ratios, albeit sometimes too high or sometimes too low.

What are creatinine and albumin anyway? Let’s see what we can find about creatinine in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.

“Additional important jobs of the kidneys are removing liquid waste from your body and balancing the minerals in the body. The two liquid waste products are urea which has been broken down from protein by the digestive system and creatinine which is a byproduct of muscle activity.”

Well, what about albumin? This can get a bit complicated. Remember, the UACR (Hang on, explanation of this coming soon.) deals with urine albumin. There’s an explanation in SlowItDownCKD  2016 about what it’s not: serum albumin.

“Maybe we should take a look at serum albumin level. Serum means it’s the clear part of your blood, the part without red or white blood cells. This much is fairly common knowledge. Albumin is not. Medlineplus, part of The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003480.htm tells us, ‘Albumin is a protein made by the liver. A serum albumin test measures the amount of this protein in the clear liquid portion of the blood.’ Uh-oh, this is also not good: a high level of serum albumin indicates progression of your kidney disease. Conversely, kidney disease can cause a high level of serum albumin.”

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This is from SlowItDownCKD 2015 and explains what the UACR is and why your albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UAC R) is important:

In recent years, researchers have found that a single urine sample can provide the needed information. In the newer technique, the amount of albumin in the urine sample is compared with the amount of creatinine, a waste product of normal muscle breakdown. The measurement is called a urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR). A urine sample containing more than 30 milligrams of albumin for each gram of creatinine (30 mg/g) is a warning that there may be a problem. If the laboratory test exceeds 30 mg/g, another UACR test should be done 1 to 2 weeks later. If the second test also shows high levels of protein, the person has persistent proteinuria, a sign of declining kidney function, and should have additional tests to evaluate kidney function.

Thank you to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse , a service of the NIH, at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/proteinuria/#tests for that information.”

Basically, that means if you have a high UACR once, get your urine retested a week or two later before you even think about worrying, which is what my friend’s doctor confirmed. But do make sure to get that second test so you can be certain your kidney function is not being compromised.

I was thrilled that both my paper and notes from the field about Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness were accepted for Landmark’s Journal for the  Conference for Global Transformation AND then be able to Journal for the Conference for Global Transformationpresent a poster about it during the conference this past weekend. In addition I was lucky enough to have lunch with one of the keynote speakers. Who, you ask? Amy D. Waterman, Ph.D.

This is one important person to us. She has changed the face of pre dialysis and transplant education globally by starting “an educational nonprofit corporation and has been awarded more than $20 million in grants…she has reached tens of thousands of people to date, educating them in the miracle of live organ donation. Last year, Dr. Waterman was invited to the White House to share about the possibility of ending the organ donor shortage.” This material is from the Journal of the 2017 Conference for Global Transformation, Volume 17, No. 1.

This is exactly what we need to do for early and moderate stage CKD. This is what the social media presence, the blogs, and the books are about. And you know what? That’s just.plain.not.enough. Last I heard, I have 107,000 readers in 106 countries. And you know what? That’s just.plain.not.enough. Am I greedy? Absolutely when it comes to sharing awareness of CKD. Do I know how to expand my coverage? Nope…not yet, that is. I am so very open to suggestions? Let me hear them!

K.E.E.P.Lest we forget, this year’s first Path of Wellness Screening will be Saturday, June 17th at the Indo American Cultural Center’s community hall, 2809 W. Maryland Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85017. As they’ve stated, “The free screening events can process up to 200 people.  Their use of point-of-care testing devices provides blood and urine test results in a matter of minutes, which are reviewed onsite by volunteer physicians.  All screening participants are offered free enrollment in chronic disease self-management workshops.  Help is also given to connect participants with primary care resources.  The goals of PTW are to improve early identification of at-risk people, facilitate their connection to health care resources, and slow the progression of chronic diseases in order to reduce heart failure, kidney failure and the need for dialysis.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

What Are You Doing for Others?

Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday. Today, more than ever, we need to heed his message. Whether you apply it to today’s bizarre political scene, your local community, your family, your co-workers doesn’t matter. What matters is the operant word: doing.

mlk-do-for-others

That picture and those words got me to thinking.  What AM I doing for others? And what still needs to be done?

My commitment is to spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). As a patient myself, I know how important this is. As you know, CKD is a costly, lethal disease if not caught early and treated… and it’s not just older folks – like me – who are at risk. One out of ten people worldwide has CKD, yet an overwhelming number of them are unaware they have it.

stages of CKDWe also know the disease can be treated, just not the way you’d usually expect a disease to be treated. A diet with restrictions on protein, potassium, phosphorous and sodium is one aspect of that treatment. Exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding stress are some of the other aspects. Some patients – like me – may have to take medication for their high blood pressure since that also affects kidney function. Imagine preventing a death with lifestyle changes. Now image saving the lives of all those who don’t know they have CKD by making them aware this disease exists. Powerful, isn’t it?

We’re all aware by now that the basic method of diagnosing CKD is via routine blood and urine tests. Yet, many people do not undergo these tests during doctor or clinic visits, so don’t know they have Chronic Kidney Disease, much less start treating it. That’s where I come in; I tell people what can be done. I tell people how they can be diagnosed and treated, if necessary.IMG_2979

I was a private person before this CKD diagnosis so many years ago. Now, in addition to a Facebook page, LinkedIn, and twitter accounts as SlowItDownCKD, I make use of an Instagram account where I post an eye catching picture daily with the hashtag #SlowItDownCKD. This brings people to my weekly blog about CKD (the one you’re reading now) and the four books I wrote about it: What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease (which explains CKD) and the others – The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1; The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2; and SlowItDownCKD 2015 – which are the blogs in print for those who don’t have a computer or are not computer savvy.

Healthline is a well-respected, informative site for medical information. This past year this blog, SlowItDownCKD, was a winner in their list of The Six Best Kidney Disease Blogs. That brought the hits on my page up by the hundreds. That means hundreds more people are now aware of Chronic Kidney Disease, how it is diagnosed, how it is treated, and how to live with it.badge_kidney-disease-1

But not everything is working as I’d hoped it would. Unfortunately, I am still not having success in having Public Service Announcements placed on television or radio. Nor have I been able to interest most general magazines or newspapers in bringing the disease to the public’s awareness.

It hasn’t totally been a wipeout there, though. Michael Garcia did interview me on The Edge Podcast and both Nutrition Action Healthletter, Center for Science in the Public Interest (the nation’s largest-circulation nutrition newsletter) and New York State United Teachers (membership 600,000) ‘It’s What We Do’ profiled my work spreading CKD Awareness. Profiling my work, interviewing me, mentioning the blog all bring awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease to the public. Awareness leads to testing. Testing leads to diagnosing. Diagnosing leads to treatment. Treatment leads to saving lives. This is why I do what I can to spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease.

friendsWhat about you? Can you speak about CKD with your family? Your friends? Your co-workers? Your brothers and sisters in whichever religion you follow? What about your neighbors? I was surprised and delighted at the number of non CKD friends and neighbors who follow the blog. When I asked why they did, they responded, “I have a friend….” We may all have a friend who may have CKD, whether that friend has told us yet or not.

There are more formal methods of spreading this awareness if that interests you. The National Kidney Foundation has an Advocacy Network.

“A NKF Advocate is someone who has been affected by kidney disease, donation or transplant and who wants to empower and educate others. These include people NKF-logo_Hori_OBwith kidney disease, dialysis patients, transplant recipients, living donors, donor family members, caregivers, friends and family members.

Advocacy plays an integral role in our mission. You can make a significant difference in the lives of kidney patients by representing the National Kidney Foundation. We give you the tools you need to make your voice heard.”

You can read more about this program at https://www.kidney.org/node/17759 or you can call 1.800.622.9010 for more information.

The American Kidney Fund also has an advocacy program, but it’s a bit different.

“There is strength in numbers. More than 5,100 passionate patients, friends, loved ones and kidney care professionals in our Advocacy Network are making a huge AKF logodifference on Capitol Hill and in their own communities. Together, we are fighting for policies that improve care for patients, protect patients’ access to health insurance and increase funding for kidney research. As advocates, we play a key role in educating elected officials and our communities about the impact of kidney disease.”

You can register for this network online at http://www.kidneyfund.org/advocacy/advocate-for-kidney-patients/advocacy-network/

Obviously, I’m serious about doing that which will spread awareness of CKD. You can take a gander at my website, www.gail-raegarwood.com, to see if that sparks any ideas for you as to how you can start doing something about spreading awareness of CKD, too. I urge you to do whatever you can, wherever you can, and whenever you can.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Starting the New Year with a Miracle

fireworksHappy New Year and welcome to 2017.  We did our usual stay in, watch movies, and toast with non-alcoholic champagne (I know that’s contradictory.) at midnight.  With our New York daughter here, it was even more meaningful.

A new year brings to mind new beginnings… and that leads me to Part 3 of the miracle series, as promised. I am so, so serious about this and hope you decide to take on for yourself causing a miracle in CKD by sharing information.

I was thinking about social media the other day. Where are the public service announcements about Chronic Kidney Disease?  I am still – nine years after my diagnose – knocking on seemingly closed doors to encourage Public Service Announcements everywhere. While the public doesn’t seem as involved with network television or radio as they were when I was younger, we now have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tumblr to name just a few ways we can share.

I use a both a Facebook page and a Twitter account to post one fact about or information pertinent to those with CKD daily. Join me at newslowitdownckdfbcoverSlowItDownCKD on Facebook and @SlowItDownCKD on Twitter. I also monitored Libre’s Tweet Chat with Gail Rae 1/10/12. I knew nothing about Twitter at the time, but it was a way to share the information I had. You may not want to do this, but feel free to ‘steal’ the information posted and share it with others.

There are also Podcasts, Internet Radio Shows, YouTubes, etc. to share what the public needs to know about CKD. A YouTube can be viewed by one person who posts it on Facebook and go viral. Don’t bother looking at mine. They’re pretty painful. I’ll look into this again at a later date.

On the other hand, these are some of the social media venues that interviewed me: The Edge

Podcast 5/9/16, Online with Andrea 3/23/15 & 3/07/12, What Is It? How Did I Get It? 2/17/12, and Improve Your Kidney Health with Dr. Rich Snyder, DO 11/21/11. I never knew these venues existed before I started working towards the miracle I wanted to cause.

Lo and behold, my sharing brought others who wanted to know about CKD, so I was profiled by Nutrition Action Healthletter, Center for Science in the Public Interest 9/16, New York State United Teachers ‘It’s What We Do’  8/9/16, and Wall Street Journal ‘Health Matters’  1/13/14. Remember that Clairol commercial in last week’s blog?

Let’s say you agree that sharing can cause a miracle in Chronic Kidney Disease and want to join in living a life causing this miracle. The first thing you’d want to do is learn about CKD. The American Kidney Fund and the National Kidney Foundation both have a wealth of information written AKF logofor the lay person, not the medical community. By the way, the National Kidney Foundation also has information about NKF-logo_Hori_OBCKD globally. Maybe you’d rather join in World Kidney Day gatherings and distribute materials. Then keep an eye on World Kidney Day’s Twitter account for locations around the world.

As you can see, I’ve been creating this miracle is by writing for these organizations and more kidney specific ones, as well as guest blogging for various groups. You may not choose to do that… but you can speak at your religious group meetings, your sports league, your weekly card game, or whatever other group you’re comfortable with.

A miracle doesn’t have to be profound. You can help create this one. All you need is a little education about CKD and the willingness to introduce the subject where you haven’t before.friends

I live my life expecting miracles and I find they happen.  This miracle that I’m causing – and is happening – has been (and is) created by sharing, sharing, sharing. The more than 200 million people who have Chronic Kidney Disease need this information, to say nothing of those who have yet to be diagnosed.

kidneys5There aren’t that many organs to go around for those who didn’t know they had CKD and progressed to End Stage Renal Disease.  We know that transplantation is a treatment, not a cure, and one that doesn’t always last forever. We also know that kidneys from living donors usually last longer than those from cadaver donors. Share that, too.

We have our no cost, no pain, no tools needed miracle right on our lips… or at our fingertips. Start sharing, keep sharing, urge others to share, and help to prevent or slow down the progression in the decline of kidneys worldwide. Sharing is causing a miracle in CKD. Both deaths and hospitalizations for this disease have declined since 2008. If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is. I keep saying I live my life expecting miracles; this is one of them.hearing

I was a private person before this disease. Now, in addition to the Facebook page and twitter accounts, I make use of an Instagram account (SlowItDownCKD) where I post an eye catching picture daily with the hash tag #SlowItDownCKD. This brings people to my weekly blog about CKD – as does my Instagram account as Gail Rae-Garwood – and the four books I wrote about it: one explaining it and the others the blogs in print – rather than electronic form for those who don’t have a computer or are not computer savvy. Time consuming? Oh yes, but if I expect to live a life of miracles, I need to contribute that time to share what I can about the disease and urge others to do the same.IMG_2979

I am urging you to realize you are the others I am asking to help cause a miracle in Chronic Kidney Disease. As the Rabbinic sage Hillel the Elder said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” Now. You. Me. Others. CKD.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s a Miracle!

It’s that time of year again… the time to believe in miracles. There’s the miracle of Mary’s virgin birth at Christmas. And there’s the miracle of the Christmas TreeChanukah oil burning for eight nights instead of the one it was meant to. That got me to thinking about miracles and so, we have a different kind of several part blog beginning today. Consider it my gift to you this holiday season.

Miracles happen every day, too. We just need to take action to make them happen… and that’s what I’d like to see us do with Chronic Kidney Disease by sharing the available information.  This particular miracle is helping to alleviate the fear of needing dialysis and/or transplantation. This particular miracle is helping patients help themselves and each other. This particular miracle is helping doctors appreciate involved patients.

Yet, causing this miracle by sharing information is overlooked again and again. Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD, is easily diagnosed by simple blood tests and urine tests (as we know), but who’s going to take them if they have no idea the disease exists, is widespread, and may be lethal? By Menorahsharing information, those at high risk will be tested. Those already in the throes of CKD can be monitored and treated when necessary. While CKD is not curable, we know it is possible to slow down the progression of the decline in your kidney function.

According to the National Institutes of Health at http://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112688,

“2014: Worldwide, an estimated 200 million people have chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

Before I was diagnosed, I had never heard of this disease… and apparently I’d had it for quite some time.  Why weren’t people sharing information about this?  Couldn’t that have prevented my developing it? At the time of my diagnose nine years ago, I meant doctors.  I don’t anymore. Nor do I leave causing a miracle by sharing to others.

This is my life. I have had Chronic Kidney Disease for nine years. As a college instructor who taught Research Writing at the time of my diagnose, I researched, researched, and researched again, but the only person I was sharing my research with was the nephrologist who treated me and FullSizeRender (2)monitored my condition. I may have expected a miracle there, but I didn’t get one. Why?

I got to thinking about that and realized he already knew what I told him. That’s when it struck me that if I expected a miracle with CKD, I would have to start sharing this information with the people who need it: the ones who didn’t know, the ones who had just been diagnosed and were terrified, and the families of those with CKD who didn’t know they also might be at risk. I went so far as to bring CKD education to the Native American Communities in Arizona since Native Americans are at high risk. I had the information and had experts willing to come to the communities to share that information.

We all know this is a costly, lethal disease if not caught early and treated… and that it’s not just the elderly who are at risk. One out of ten people worldwide has CKD, yet an overwhelming number of them are unaware they have it. We know CKD can be treated, just not the way those who don’t have it might expect. A diet with restrictions on protein, potassium, phosphorous and sodium may be one aspect of that treatment. Exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding stress are some of the other aspects. Some patients – like me – may have to take medication for their high blood pressure since that also affects kidney function. Imagine preventing a death with lifestyle changes. Now imagine EXPECTING the miracle of preventing that death by sharing this information. Powerful, isn’t it?

We know the basic method of diagnosing CKD is via routine blood and urine tests. Yet, many people do not undergo these tests during doctor or clinic visits, so don’t know they have Chronic Kidney Disease, much less start treating it.urine container

This is where the miracle I expected in my life began for me. I started speaking with every doctor of any kind that I knew or that my doctors knew and asked them to share the information. They were already experiencing time constraints, but suggested I write a fact sheet and leave it in their waiting rooms since they agreed there’s no reason to wait until a person is in kidney failure and needs dialysis or a transplant to continue living before diagnosing and dealing with the illness.

My passion about producing this miracle multiplied threefold from that point on. So much so that I went one better and wrote a book with the facts. I was convinced we would be able to cause a miracle by sharing information about this disease. My goal was clear: have everyone routinely tested.

Dr. Robert  Provenzano, a leading nephrologist in the United States,  succinctly summed up the problem worldwide.

“Chronic Kidney Disease is an epidemic in the world…. As other countries become Westernized, we find the incidence of Chronic Kidney Disease and end-stage renal failure increases. We see this in India, and in China. We see this everywhere. …”

We repeatedly see diabetes and hypertension cited as the two major causes of CKD. Does your neighbor know this? How about the fellow at the gas bp cuffstation? Ask them what Chronic Kidney Disease is. More often than not, you’ll receive a blank look – one we can’t afford if you keep the statistic at the beginning of this paper in mind. We can cause a miracle to change this.

Sharing can be the cause of that miracle… but that’s not something we can leave to the other guy. We each ARE the other guy. More on this next week.

For now, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa (somehow implicit in this holiday is the miracle of bringing people together), and every other holiday I’ve inadvertently missed or don’t know about.

portal_in_time_cover_for_kindleI just got word that Portal in Time – my first novel – is available on Amazon.com. Consider that as a holiday gift for those friends not interested in CKD. Of course, I just happen to have four CKD books on Amazon.com for those who might be interested in CKD. Be part of a miracle.IMG_2979

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Starting My Day

Every day, I spend the morning doing ‘kidney work’ as I call it. That means looking for Chronic Kidney Disease related articles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and perusing the various medical newsletters to which I’ve subscribed. This takes a minimum of two hours. I also post something on most of these sites at as SlowItDownCKD.newckdfbcover

I noticed I’d been reading more and more about the plant based diet being good for CKD patients, so that’s what I posted on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SlowItDownCKD/on November 1. Then I started receiving emails from readers about it.

One was a very interesting, but undocumented, chart concerning how avoiding red meat lowers the risk of CKD. There was no title … and to make it worse, the reader – Cindy – couldn’t remember where she found it. She was frustrated; I was frustrated. So I did a little digging.

I started with a site that’s fast becoming one of my favorites – NephJC, a journal club. According to their website,

“It is the teaching session where trainees and teachers exchange roles. Journal Club is the area where the flipped classroom has been fully implemented in medical education. Read and study the article at home, and then use classroom time to critically debate the methods, results and interpretation of the article.”GFR

As both a former high school and college instructor, I can tell you this method of teaching seemed to have sparked some super creative thoughts in my classroom. Anyhoo, as they say, that’s where I found the chart. More specifically, it’s at http://www.nephjc.com/news/2016/8/17/red-meat-summary. Read the article. It’s got more information.

red-meat-chart

Cindy also mentioned that she lost so much weight – without being hungry – on the plant based diet that her nephrologist asked her to gain weight so that she wouldn’t “be at the bottom of BMI or below.” You know this grabbed my attention.

At the same time we were corresponding, another CKD Awareness Advocate posted in a private FB group (Hence, the reason he remains unnamed.) that in his last two nephrology labs, he raised his GFR something like eight or nine points and had nothing to attribute it to but changing to a plant based diet.FullSizeRender (2)

As a reminder, here’s the definition of GFR from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“Glomerular filtration rate [if there is a lower case “e” before the term, it means estimated glomerular filtration rate] which determines both the stage of kidney disease and how well the kidneys are functioning.”

Let’s look at this a little more closely. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, I wrote a blog about the limited history of nephrology and included mention of the five stages of CKD. Basically, the higher your GFR, the better your kidneys are working. FullSizeRender (3)So this means the other advocate’s kidneys are functioning better now that he’s on a plant based diet. Why?

I turned to Dr. Greger’s NutritionFacts.org on YouTube for a better explanation than any I could offer. Dr. Greger is Michael Greger, described on NutritionFacts.org as:

“a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. A founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Dr. Greger is licensed as a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition. He is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine.”

NutritionFacts.org, while new to me, describes itself on its site as:

“a strictly non-commercial, science-based public service provided by Dr. Michael Greger, providing free updates on the latest in nutrition research via bite-sized videos. There are more than a thousand videos on nearly every aspect of healthy eating, with new videos and articles uploaded every day.”IMG_2982IMG_2980

I thoroughly enjoyed his analogy of overloading the kidneys with meat protein to that of constantly revving a car’s engine, especially since that’s the same analogy I used in my first CKD book.  He also mentions inflammation as a contributing cause of lower GFR. I’m glad I’ve discovered his website and intend to take a closer look at it…just not now.

Now I’m really interested in going back to Cindy’s comment about losing weight on the plant based diet. I wanted to know – what else? – why. I spent most of yesterday researching. The consensus seems to be that not having to count calories or portion control may have something to do with it.  Then again, maybe it’s the lack of cookies, cakes, and candies. The few medical studies I did find were far too complicated for me to understand, much less explain. Are there any readers out there who can help? I have one particular reader in mind and hope that she will immediately respond.

Let’s see if I can do any better with finding out why the nephrologist of the reader I’m corresponding with doesn’t want her to “be at the bottom of BMI or below.” Aha! A study by US National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26920126 suggests that “that combined effects of low BMI … and serum albumin level … are associated with CKD progression.”

NIHMaybe we should take a look at “serum albumin level.” Serum means it’s the clear part of your blood, the part without red or white blood cells. This much is fairly common knowledge. Albumin is not. Medlineplus, part of The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003480.htm tells us, “Albumin is a protein made by the liver. A serum albumin test measures the amount of this protein in the clear liquid portion of the blood.” Uh-oh, this is also not good: a high level of serum albumin indicates progression of your kidney disease. Conversely, kidney disease can cause a high level of serum albumin.

Even with yesterday’s research, this blog has taken quite a while to complete … and not just because I was doing the wash while I wrote it, or because I was enjoying having the window to my right open as I wrote. I can see this becoming several additional blogs… if there’s reader interest.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Good Enough 

Yesterday, I carefully applied my eye liner, examined myself in the magnifying mirror, nodded to myself and murmured, “Good enough.” I’ve been saying that an awful lot lately and finally realized – once a valued, constant reader asked about the connection between worsening vision and Chronic Kidney Disease – that it may be due to my CKD.

This, after I’ve spent years attributing “Good enough” to the slowest developing ever case of macular degeneration,  the age related need for reading glasses, and my impatience with makeup. Of course, then I remembered that I couldn’t read a darned thing without the reading glasses and, that without ample light, even they didn’t do the trick.eye liner

Back to the drawing board, ladies and gentlemen. Here’s what DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/symptoms-and-diagnosis/eyes-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4732 has to say about CKD and vision.

Diabetes and high blood pressure aren’t only the leading causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). They’re also the leading causes of eye disease and loss of vision. If your renal disease is a result of either condition your vision may be at risk.

Some of the most common eye problems that occur in CKD patients are retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma.”

Here are some quickie reminders before we continue. The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/  tells us, “Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin.”

Book CoverI turned to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney for a reminder about high blood pressure: “A possible cause of CKD, 140/90mm Hg is currently considered hypertension, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, too.”

However, the American Heart Association has changed this a bit as of Dec. 2013. “The American Heart Association maintains its recommendation of initiating treatment — starting with lifestyle changes and then medication if necessary — at 140/90 until age 80, then at 150/90.” Yet, The Journal of the American Medical Association maintains that people over 60 should not be considered hypertensive until they register 150/90.

While that’s not new information to me, I did wonder how hypertension could affect your sight. The American Academy of Ophthalmology at http://www.aao.org/eye-health/ask-eye-md-q/how-does-high-blood-pressure-affect-vision came to the rescue here.

“If the blood pressure is very high it can be called malignant hypertension and cause swelling of the macula and acute loss of vision. Otherwise hypertension can cause progressive constriction of the arterioles in the eye and other findings. Usually high blood pressure alone will not affect vision much, however hypertension is a known risk factor in the onset and/or progression of other eye disease such as glaucomadiabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration as well as blocked veins and arteries in the retina or nerve of the eye that can severely affect vision.”

My first response to this information was, “What’s an arteriole? A small artery?”  Time to find out. I turned to my old friend MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2335 for the definition.arteriole in eye

“A small branch of an artery that leads to a capillary. The oxygenated hemoglobin (oxyhemoglobin) makes the blood in arterioles (and arteries) look bright red.”

That makes sense.  Do you remember what glaucoma and/or macular degeneration are?

Back to another trusted source for one of the definitions: The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/basics/definition/con-20024042.

“Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is vital to good vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye.”

I sort of, maybe, remembered writing about macular generation in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2.Digital Cover Part 2 redone - Copy Sure enough, I found it.

“An eye disease that progressively destroys the macula, the central portion of the retina, impairing central vision. Macular degeneration rarely causes total blindness because only the center of vision is affected.” (according to MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10027). Oh, MedicineNet again.  That’s a good source for easily understood medical definitions if you’re looking for one.

Let’s say you don’t have diabetes or hypertension.  Does CKD affect your vision then?  Interestingly enough, most sites I pulled up talked more about CKD being caught during an eye exam than CKD causing vision problems… except in diabetic End Stage Renal Disease.  This is when you need to have your eyes carefully checked and often.

PubMed, part of the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21784818 puts a bit of a different spin on the vision/CKD exploration. “Retinal abnormalities are common in inherited and acquired renal disease.”

journal_logoWow! This is from an older study – 2011 – conducted by the well-respected Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.  I don’t know if my CKD is inherited or acquired, but it is renal disease and I do have vision problems… and so does my valued, constant reader.

By the way, blurred vision may be an indication that you are suffering from uremia. This reminder brought to you by the Renal Network’s Kidney Patient News at http://www.kidneypatientnews.org/ckd/index.php.

Of course, I can almost hear some of you asking what uremia is.  The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 was DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAILof help here: it’s “the buildup of waste in the blood due to kidney failure.”

I really enjoy learning from the research I do to answer your questions, so thank you for another opportunity to do that. Just keep in mind that I’m not a doctor and you need to ask these questions of your nephrologist who will answer them or refer you to another specialist if need be.

Another birthday approaches – which I consider another opportunity to give you gifts.  Keep your eye on P2P’s Chronic Illness Awareness Buy and Sell’s page on Facebook and SlowItDownCKD on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in addition to this blog for Book Give- Away announcements.happy birthday

Last but not least, The  17th Annual Southwest Nephrology Conference and 4th Annual Convention of Cardio Renal Society of America will be held right here in Arizona at the We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center in Scottsdale. The dates are March 11-12. I’ll be attending part of the time. Why not meet me? Register at www.swnc.org or by calling 1 (877) 587-1357.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

To Wash or Not To Wash

Peggy Rickard belongs to the same Landmark Worldwide Center (an international personal and professional growth, training and development landmarkqrcompany) as I do here in Arizona.  I didn’t know her, but she wanted to perform a service project for one of her Landmark courses and she wanted it to deal with the kidneys. The manager of the center – the ever affable Philip Rand – knew I did “something with kidneys,” so he asked if I would call her.  When I did, it turned out that she has a medical advocacy business, but that had nothing to do with her project.

We had a wonderful conversation.  Here was someone in one of my other communities who spoke my kidney language. Peggy had already contacted The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona and learned from Dr. James Ivie, the Director of Patient Services, that what was really needed was to have the information leaflets about kidney disease and donation translated into Spanish since Hispanics are at a higher risk for kidney disease.

Kidney ArizonaMaybe I can pick out a few words of Spanish here and there, but she needed more. I couldn’t translate the leaflets into Spanish for her and didn’t know anyone who could.  That night, I went to the center for the completion session of The Wisdom Unlimited course in which I had been participating. In a greet-those-you-don’t-know moment, I spoke with Nathaniel (Nat) Garcia II – since he was the person directly in front of me – only to discover he is a missionary… and fluent in Spanish…and more than willing to do the translations.  Problem solved.

That got me to thinking about language. While taking a shower the next morning, the bottle of shampoo I was using caught my eye. It had the words ‘sulfate free’ in large letters on the label.  Hmmm, sulfate looks a lot like sulphur.  Are they related?

After checking a bunch of dictionaries, I decided to use the definition of The Medical Dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/sulfate since it seemed the simplest to understand.

“a salt of sulfuric acid”

Uh-oh, sulfuric means made of sulfur. Although the spelling may be different, sulfuric acid is highly corrosive. It’s also a mineral… and is used in both waste water treatment and fertilizer creation. Why would shampoo have this as an ingredient in the first place?shampoo

I figured the best person to provide an answer would be a hair stylist so I read Melissa Jongman’s article on http://hubpages.com/style/Sulfates-Are-they-damaging-your-hair-Why-to-opt-for-a-sulfate-free-shampoo

“Sulfates are detergents used to make the shampoo lather. They’re inexpensive to use in shampoos, which explains why more than 90% of shampoos contain them. The most common sulfates used in these shampoos are:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)
  • Ammonia Laureth Sulphate (ALS)
  • TEA Lauryeth Sulfate (TEA)
  • Sodium Myreth Sulphate (SMS)”

This was not looking good.  Sulphur is something we, as Chronic Kidney Disease patients, need to avoid. As I explained in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, sulphur can further damage your already damaged kidneys.

Book CoverSo what can we do?  Not washing our hair is obviously not the answer. I googled shampoos without sulfates and came up with a list of 43 at http://sulfatefreeshampoos.org/sulfate-free-shampoo-list/#list. While the latest edit of this list was during this new year, I am not familiar with the editors nor the products. However, you can safely bet that I’ll try them.

Let’s go back to why sulfates are not good for CKD patients for a minute. I stumbled across a CKD education site called quizlet.com. Perusing this site, I found the statement that

“Very late CKD is due to reduced excretion of sulfates and phosphates.”

Of course! That makes perfect sense: as our kidney function declines, we are not excreting as much of these substances as we did before we were lucky enough (ouch!) to develop CKD and they build up.  That’s CKD 101.

A nervous me decided to see what other beauty or health products used sulfates. I discovered it’s used in body wash (Wait! Isn’t sulfate a skin irritant?), toothpaste, and nail polish. That tripped a thought. Didn’t I blog about that?

I used the search function on the blog only to find that that blog dealt with other chemicals in nail polish.  (Gritting teeth and crying out in anguish) Is nothing safe anymore? All right, pick a chemical… any chemical.

Looking at the ingredients in both hair products and nail polish, I chose phthalates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html helped us out with this one:chemistry

“Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. … They are used in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, plastic clothes (raincoats), and personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes)….

How Phthalates Affect People’s Health

Human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown. Some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to phthalates.”

Maybe the human health effects are unknown and maybe this passes quickly via the urine, but if you have Chronic Kidney Disease, you are not filtering your blood as well as other people.  Why take a chance of making it worse?

Now that I’ve probably made you fearful of using any beauty product on the market, be aware that there are many products without phthalate. Breast Cancer Action (Yes, there seems to be a connection between breast cancer and phthalates.) at http://www.bcaction.org/our-take-on-breast-cancer/environment/safe-cosmetics/phthalate-free-cosmetics/  offers a list of companies which produce phthalate free beauty aids.

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAILDigital Cover Part 2 redone - Copy

Let’s talk about service and gratitude for just a minute.  While I’ve always believed in service, it’s only since I’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease (way back in in 2008) that I’ve become aware of how very thankful I am for the little things in life – like spreading CKD Awareness by writing this blog, posting some CKD tidbit on Twitter daily, starting an Instagram account for SlowItDownCKD, and offering my books.  Thank YOU for being the readers.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!