CKD and the VA or It’s Not Alphabet Soup at All

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is not a day to say Happy Memorial Day since it is a day commemorating those who gave their lives for our freedom. Lots of us have bar-b-ques or go to the park or the beach to celebrate. No problem there as long as we remember WHO we are celebrating. I promise: no political rant here, just plain appreciation of those who serve(d) us both living and dead. Personally, I am honoring my husband, my step son-in-law, and all those cousins who just never came home again.

I explained the origins of this day in SlowItDownCKD 2015 (May 25), so won’t re-explain it here. You can go to the blog and just scroll down to that month and year in the drop down menu on the right side of the page under Archives. I was surprised to read about the origins myself.

We already know that Chronic Kidney Disease will prevent you from serving your country in the military, although there are so many other ways to serve our country. This is from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

‘The Department of Defense’s Instruction for Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services establishes medical standards, which, if not met, are grounds for rejection for military service. Other standards may be prescribed for a mobilization for a national emergency.

As of September 13, 2011, according to Change 1 of this Instruction, the following was included.

‘Current or history of acute (580) nephritis or chronic (582) Chronic Kidney Disease of any type.’

Until this date, Chronic Kidney Disease was not mentioned.”

You can read the entire list of The Department of Defense’s Instruction for Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services at http://dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/613003p.pdf. You’ll also find information there about metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and pre-diabetes as conditions for non-enlistment.

This got me to thinking. What if you were had already enlisted when you developed CKD. Yes, you would be discharged as medically unfit, but could you get help as a veteran?

According to the Veterans Administration at https://www.research.va.gov/topics/Kidney_disease.cfm#research4,

“In 2012, VA and the University of Michigan began the work of creating a national kidney disease registry to monitor kidney disease among Veterans. The registry will provide accurate and timely information about the burden and trends related to kidney disease among Veterans and identify Veterans at risk for kidney disease.

VA hopes the kidney disease registry will lead to improvements in access to care, such as kidney transplants. The department also expects the registry will allow VA clinicians to better monitor and prevent kidney disease, and will reduce costs related to kidney disease.”

That’s what was hoped for five years ago. Let’s see if it really came to fruition.

Oh, this is promising and taken directly from The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“VA eKidney Clinic

The VA eKidney Clinic is now available! The eKidney Clinic offers patient education through interactive virtual classrooms where Veterans can learn how to take care of their kidneys and live a good life with kidney disease. Please visit the VA eKidney Clinic website or click on the picture below. For additional information see the eKidney Clinic Patient Information Brochure.”

The Veterans Health Administration doesn’t just provide information, although I must say I was delighted to see the offer of Social Work Services. There is also treatment available. Notice dialysis mentioned in their mission statement.

Mission: The VHA Kidney Program’s mission is to improve the quality and consistency of healthcare services delivered to Veterans with kidney disease nationwide. The VHA Kidney Program provides kidney-related services to dialysis centers throughout VA’s medical centers. Professional guidance and services are available in the form of consultation and policies developed by VA kidney experts. These experts are dedicated to furthering the understanding of kidney disease, its impact on Veterans, and developing treatments to help patients manage disease symptoms. In addition, the VHA Kidney Program provides VA healthcare professionals with clinical care, education, research, and informatics resources to improve healthcare at local VA dialysis facilities.”

I did find it strange that there was a cravat on the Veterans Administration site that they do not necessarily endorse the VHA Kidney Program, especially since it is so helpful.

 

 

 

How involved is the VA with CKD patients? Take a look for yourself at this 2015 statistics by going to https://www.va.gov/HEALTH/services/renal/documents/Kidney_Disease_and_Dialysis_Services_Fact%20Sheet_April_2015.pdf

  • All Veterans enrolled in VA are eligible for services, regardless of service connection status
  • Enrolled Veterans can receive services from the VA or from community providers under the Non-VA Care Program if VA services are unavailable
  • 49 VA health care facilities offer kidney disease specialty care (nephrology services)
  • 96 VA facilities offer inpatient and/or outpatient dialysis; 25 centers are inpatient-only. Of the 71 VA outpatient dialysis centers, 64 are hospital based units, 2 are joint VA/DoD units, 4 are freestanding units, and one is within a community based outpatient clinic (CBOC)
  • VA enrollees must be offered the option of home dialysis provided either directly by the VA or through the Non-VA Care Program
  • 36 outpatient hemodialysis centers offer home dialysis care directly.
  • 5 VA medical centers host kidney transplantation programs.
  • VA Delivered Kidney Care (Calendar Year 2013) 13,794 Unique Veterans receiving dialysis paid for by VA; representing an annual increase of 13% since 2008. 794 Veterans received home dialysis; 55percent (434) by VA facilities and 45percent (360) under the Non-VA Care Program.
  • Increasing use of telehealth services to increase Veteran access to kidney specialty care Secure messaging: 7,319 messages, Clinical video telehealth: 4,977 encounters
  • VA Kidney Research (FY ’14) the research budget for the study of kidney disease has been $18.5 million per year for the past 5 years (FY ’10-FY ’14). The VA Cooperative Studies Program has supported national clinical trials addressing the best treatment of Veterans with CKD since at least 1998.

It seems to me our veterans are covered. Now if we could only make sure the rest of us stay covered no matter what bills the current administration signs into law.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

So That’s How It’s Decided

SlowItDownCKD’s being honored as one of the best kidney disease blogs for 2016 has had some interesting results.  The first was the health and food writer’s guest blog about hydration for Chronic Kidney Disease on March 6th. Then it was the guest blog by the Social Security Administration’s Outreach Director. This week, it’s a telephone interview with Dr. Michael J. Germain, a nephrologist from Massachusetts, about some of the suggested guidelines in the upcoming KDIGO for 2016.

Got it:  backtrack. Let’s start with KDIGO. This stands for KIDNEY DISEASE | IMPROVING GLOBAL OUTCOMES. Their homepage at KDIGO.org states, “KDIGO MISSION – Improving the care and outcomes of kidney disease patients worldwide through the development and implementation of global clinical practice guidelines.” Anyone up for visiting their offices? What an excuse to go to Belgium!

Okay, now we know what the organization is and what it does, but why Dr. Germain? I asked the same question. Although he is not on the KDIGO panel of doctors who decide what the next year’s development and implementation will be, he is well versed with the topic having published or having been part of the writing for an overwhelming number of articles in such esteemed journals as the American Journal of Kidney Disease, Kidney International, and The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, as well as contributing to textbooks, … and he could simplify the medicalese in the guidelines to simple English for this lay person.

If you think I remind you quite often that I’m not a doctor, you should read my emails to our liaison. State I’m not a doctor, repeat, state I’m not a doctor, repeat. She had the good graces to laugh at my insecurities.

The latest guideline updates have not been released yet, so both the good doctor (over 40 years as a nephrologist) and I (CKD patient and awareness advocate for a decade) were working off the draft that was released last August.

Dr. Germain also made it a point to ensure that I understand the guidelines are based upon expert opinion, not evidence. That made sense to me since he is not only a patient seeing nephrologist, but also a research nephrologist – to which his numerous publications will attest. With me being a lay person, he “had a lot of ‘splaining to do.” I had to admire his passion when discussing the vitamin D guidelines.

In the draft guidelines, it was suggested that hypercalcemia be avoided. I know; it’s a new word. We already know that hyper is a prefix meaning over or too much; think excessive in this case. Calcemia looks sort of like calcium. Good thinking because, according to Healthline at http://www.healthline.com/health/hypercalcemia:“Hypercalcemia is a condition in which you have too high a concentration of calcium in your blood. Calcium performs important functions, such as helping keep your bones healthy. However, too much of it can cause problems….”

This excerpt from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease explains how calcium works with vitamin D and phosphorous.

“The kidneys produce calcitrol which is the active form of vitamin D. The kidneys are the organs that transfer this vitamin from your food and skin [sunshine provides it to your skin] into something your body can use. Both vitamin D and calcium are needed for strong bones. It is yet another job of your kidneys to keep your bones strong and healthy. Should you have a deficit of Vitamin D, you’ll need to be treated for this, in addition for any abnormal level of calcium or phosphates. The three work together. Vitamin D enables the calcium from the food you eat to be absorbed in the body. CKD may leech the calcium from your bones and body.”

The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 offers us more information.

“The parathyroid glands are located in the neck, near or attached to the back side of the thyroid gland. Parathyroid hormone controls calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels in the blood and bone. Release of PTH is controlled by the level of calcium in the blood. Low blood calcium levels cause increased PTH to be released, while high blood calcium levels block PTH release. …  Thanks to MedLine Plus at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003690.htm .”

As Dr. Germain explained, CKD patients break down vitamin D quickly since they have more of a catabolic enzyme, the enzyme that converts the vitamin D to an inactive form. Oh, right, catabolic means “any destructive process by which complex substances are converted by living cells into more simple compounds, with release of energy” according to Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers.

Here’s the problem: vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia. Dr. Germain phrased it, “In fact, the draft guideline recommends active vitamin D hormone therapy not to be routinely used in patients with CKD stage 3 or 4 due to increased risk of hypercalcemia and the lack of efficacy shown in studies.” Therefore, he urges nephrologists to wait until stage 4 or 5 to recommend vitamin D since hyperparathryoidism may lead to bone damage. But just as in any disease, it is harder to treat bone damage once it’s already there. His recommendation: Ask about your parathyroid level every three to six months and discuss the results of your tests with your nephrologist. By the way, his feeling – and obviously mine – is that preserving the kidney function is the most important job of the nephrologist and the patient.

I am eager to see the guidelines published so I can write more about them. The conclusion about vitamin D is based upon what nephrologists have seen in their practices since the last set of KDIGO guidelines were published in 2009. It will affect the way our nephrologists speak with us about our treatment, just as the other guidelines for 2016 will.

That will affect the way we self-manage. For example, I restrict my sun time to 15 minutes a day based on these findings. Take a look at how you self-manage. It should bring up a list of questions for you to ask your nephrologist at your next appointment.

You should also know the KDIGO deals with all stages of CKD including End Stage CKD and pediatric CKD.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Getting Juiced

I have the gentlest nephrologist in the world! Well, I think so anyway. He has been cautioning me about my weight for years. Yes, there it is again: my weight. Here I was finally coming to terms with being a chubby since nothing I was doing seemed to work to lose the weight. That’s when he tossed out a bombshell.

We all know that increased weight can raise your blood pressure which, in turn, negatively affects your kidneys. I was so pleased with myself for having raised my GFR another three points on my last blood test that I didn’t understand how I could be leaking protein into my urine at the same time. Wasn’t protein in the urine simply an indication that you have Chronic Kidney Disease? Didn’t I already know that? So why was protein leaking into my urine to the tune of 252 mg. when the norm was between 15-220 mg?

I know, I know: back up a bit. Thanks for the reminder. GFR is defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease this way:

“GFR: 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.”

Oh, and just in case you’ve forgotten, this excerpt from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 is a good reminder about the stages of CKD.

“Different stages require different treatment or no treatment at all.  There are five stages with the mid-level stage divided into two parts. The higher the stage, the worse your kidney function.

Think of the stages as a test with 100 being the highest score.  These are the stages and their treatments:

STAGE 1: (normal or high) – above 90 – usually requires watching, not treatment, although many people decide to make life style changes now: following a renal diet, exercising, lowering blood pressure, ceasing to smoke, etc.

 STAGE 2: (mild) – 60-89 – Same as for stage one

STAGE 3A: (moderate) – 45-59 – This is when you are usually referred to a nephrologist [Kidney specialist]. You’ll need a renal [Kidney] dietitian, too, since you need to be rigorous in avoiding more than certain amounts of protein, potassium, phosphorous, and sodium in your diet to slow down the deterioration of your kidneys. Each patient has different needs so there is no one diet.  The diet is based on your lab results.  Medications such as those for high blood pressure may be prescribed to help preserve your kidney function.

STAGE 3B: (moderate) – 30-44 – same as above, except the patient may experience symptoms.

STAGE 4:  (severe 15-29) – Here’s when dialysis may start. A kidney transplant may be necessary instead of dialysis [Artificial cleansing of your blood]. Your nephrologist will probably want to see you every three months and request labs before each visit.

STAGE 5: (End stage) – below 15 – Dialysis or transplant is necessary to continue living.

Many thanks to DaVita for refreshing my memory about each stage.”

Okay, back to the connection between spilling protein into your urine (called proteinuria) and CKD. This is from the recently published SlowItDownCKD 2016:

“In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, The National Institutes of Health helped me explain why this combination of excess weight and pre-diabetes was a problem for CKD patients:

‘High blood glucose and high blood pressure damage the kidneys’ filters. When the kidneys are damaged, proteins leak out of the kidneys into the urine. The urinary albumin test detects this loss of protein in the urine. Damaged kidneys do not do a good job of filtering out wastes and extra fluid. Wastes and fluid build up in your blood instead of leaving the body in urine.’”

Let’s say you don’t have pre-diabetes, but do have CKD. Does proteinuria still make it worse? Damn! It does. This explanation is from SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“The problem is that antibodies are made up of protein. Antibodies is defined by Dictionary.com at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/antibodies as

‘A protein substance produced in the blood or tissues in response to a specific antigen, such as a bacterium or a toxin, that destroys or weakens bacteria and neutralizes organic poisons, thus forming the basis of immunity.’

Lose lots of protein into your urine and you’re losing some of your immunity. In other words, you’re open to infection.”

I guess that explains why I magically developed a UTI after years of not having any.

I have gone so far afield from what I intended to write about on this last Monday of National Kidney Month. What was that, you ask? It was my nephrologist’s strong suggestions for immediate weight loss: juicing. I was so surprised.

After all that writing about eating the raw vegetables for roughage and sticking to only three specified amount servings of each daily, this expert in his field was telling me to ignore all that and throw myself into juicing for the immediate future. But you can bet I’ll try it; no way I’m throwing nine years of keeping my kidneys healthier and healthier out the window.

I can’t tell you if it works since I only started yesterday, but I can tell you it doesn’t taste bad. I’m learning how to use this fancy, dancy blender we got three years ago that had just been sitting on the shelf. Experimenting with the consistency has caused a mess here and there, but oh well.

My first juicing experience included kale, celery, lemons, cucumbers, and ginger. I definitely need to play with my combinations. I also think I made far too much. Luckily Bear was in the house and shouted out that the machine was making that noise because I didn’t add enough water. Water? You’re supposed to add water?

I’ll keep you posted on these experiments if you’ll get yourself tested for CKD. It’s just a blood and urine test. Fair deal?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Women Marching to the Kidney’s Beat

In keeping with my theme of March being Women’s History Month – minus the history – and National Kidney Month, today’s blog will be about those women around the world who have contributed to Chronic Kidney Disease knowledge. Two such women, Dr. Vanessa Grubbs and Dr. Bessie Young, were highlighted in February’s tribute to Black History Month and women in nephrology. Thank you again, ladies, for all you do for CKD patients.

When you realize the study of nephrology as we know it is only a little over 50 years old (Incredible, isn’t it?), you’ll understand why I raided The International Society of Nephrologists (ISN) October 2010 issue at http://www.theisn.org/images/ISN_News_Archive/ISN_News_35_October_2010_LR.pdf for the following information. I’ve added notes for clarification when needed.

United States: An accomplished researcher and physician, Josephine Briggs is a former ISN councilor and former councilor and Secretary of ASN (American Society of Nephrologists). She is the former director of the Division of Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was responsible for all NIH funded renal research in the 1990s. Today, she is Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. She maintains a lab at NIDDK, researching the renin-angiotensin system, diabetic nephropathy, circadian regulation of blood pressure, and the effect of antioxidants in kidney disease.

Europe: Rene Habib, who passed away (in 2010), was a truly pioneering renal pathologist. She provided the first description of many renal diseases and worked with ISN founder Jean Hamburger to establish nephrology as a new discipline in Europe. Her contributions and energy were central to establishing pathology as an essential and integrated component of this new field worldwide.

India: Vidya N. Acharya was the first woman nephrologist in India and trained some 150 internists in nephrology. For three decades, her research focused on Urinary Tract Infection. She was a consultant nephrologist at Gopalakrishna Piramal Memorial Hospital and director of the Piramal Institute for training in Dialysis Technology, Renal Nutrition and Preventive Nephrology in Mumbai. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Society of Nephrology in 2007.

China: HaiYan Wang is the Editor of Kidney International China and has been an ISN and ASPN (American Society of Pediatric Nephrology) councilor and Executive Committee member as well as a member of the editorial boards of Chinese and international renal journals. She has published over 200 articles and books in Chinese and English. She graduated from Beijing Medical University. After three years of internship, she became a nephrology fellow at the First Hospital Beijing Medical University. Since 1983, she moved on to Chief of Nephrology and later became Professor of the Department of Medicine at the First Hospital Beijing. She has been Chairman of the Chinese Society of Nephrology and is Vice President of the Chinese Medical Association. Her unit is the largest training site for nephrology fellows in China.

United Arab Emirates: Mona Alrukhaimi is co-chair of the ISN GO (International Society of Nephrologists Global Outreach Programs) Middle East Committee, and the leader of the KDIGO (Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes) Implementation Task Force for the Middle East and African regions. She is also a Member of the Governing Board of the Arab Society of Nephrology and Renal Transplantation. Since 2006, she has actively organized World Kidney Day activities in the United Arab Emirates and prepared the past four rounds of the ISN Update Course in Nephrology. Having played an active role in the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism, she contributes to serve on the custodian group and takes part in the Steering Committee for Women in Transplantation under The Transplantation Society.

South Africa: Saraladevi Naicker carried the weight of setting standards and provided the first training program for nephrologists in Africa over the last decade (Remember this article was published in 2010.). Specializing in internal medicine, she trained in Durban and later helped set up a Transplant Unit in the Renal Unit at Addington Hospital. In 2001, she became Chief Specialist and Professor of Renal Medicine at University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and in 2009 was appointed Chairman of Medicine at Wits. She is proud that there are currently (Again: in 2010) six postgraduate students from Africa studying for higher degrees in nephrology under her tutelage. Over the years, Naicker’s unit has served as the main training site for young nephrologists from across Africa and many individuals trained by her are currently practicing in Africa. Naicker received the Phillip Tobias Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006, an honor which bears testimony to her teaching prowess.

Israel: Batya Kristal is Professor of Medicine at the Technion Medical School, Haifa. She is the first woman to direct an academic nephrology department in Israel. At the Western Galilee Hospital, Nahariya, she leads a translational research project focusing on different aspects of oxidative stress and inflammation. She also heads a large clinical nephrology and dialysis program, which uniquely integrates staff and patients from the diverse ethnic population of the Galilee. Founder of the Israeli NKF, initiator and organizer of the traditional annual international conferences at Nahariya, she is truly an important role model for women in the country.

Australia: After holding resident positions in medicine and surgery and as registrar in medicine at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, Priscilla Kincaid-Smith was director and physician of Nephrology at Royal Melbourne Hospital and Professor of Medicine at University of Melbourne. She demonstrated overwhelming evidence of the link between headache powders and kidney damage and contributed to research on the links between high blood pressure and renal malfunction. The only female ISN President so far, she was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire “for services to medicine”, was awarded the David Hume Award from the National Kidney Foundation (USA) and became a Companion of the Order of Australia.

There’s very little room for me to add my own words this week so I’ll use them to add myself as a lay woman in nephrology (What hubris!) to let you know that the edited digital version of SlowItDownCKD 2016 will be out on Amazon later this week. You guessed it: in honor of National Kidney Month.

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Processed Foods: Yea or Nay?

Good morning, world! It’s still March which means it’s still National Kidney Month here in the USA and Women’s History Month. I’m going to take liberties with the ‘history’ part of Women’s History Month just as I did last month with Black History Month. Today we have a guest blog from a woman – Diana Mrozek, RDN – which deals with the kidneys.

You know you’re entitled to a free nutritional appointment yearly after two the first year if you have CKD. Here’s what I wrote about that in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“Most people think of a nutritionist as a luxury even if they do have a chronic disease.  When I pulled out my checkbook to pay my renal dietitian [RD], I was told the government will pay for her services.  That made sense.  Especially in the current economic atmosphere and for older people, the government needs to help pay our medical bills.”

My nephrologist is part of a practice which rotates their nutritionists. It’s a pretty good idea since I get different points of view about my renal diet from dietitians who each have my records at hand. Your renal diet is tweaked according to your latest labs, so having your records in front of them is important to you and your nutritionist.

Notice I was writing about a RD and Diana is a RDN. The only difference between the two is that Registered Dieticians need not also be Nutritionists, but an RDN is both a Dietician and a Nutritionist.

Let’s take a look at Diana’s unique take on processed foods now.

Processed Food, Chronic Kidney Disease and Your Health

What foods come to mind when you hear the words “processed food”? Is it potato chips? Fast food? Margarine? Or maybe bread? Olive oil? Milk? Do you think artificial? Unhealthy? Safe? Convenient? Cheap?

If any of these words or foods came to mind, you are correct! Let’s clarify. Processed is a term that applies to a wide range of foods as by definition they are any food that has been altered from its natural state usually for either safety or convenience. Many foods need to be processed to make them suitable for eating, for example extracting oil from seeds and pasteurizing milk to make it safe to drink.

Processed foods can have many benefits like convenient and safe food storage as well as better retention of nutrient content. For example, flash frozen fruits and vegetables may have higher vitamin and mineral content than fresh or canned. They also provide more choice, less waste, less cost and can reduce food preparation and cooking time. Processed foods can be helpful for people who have difficulty cooking, like the elderly or disabled.

Over the past several years, many working in the nutrition industry have become very critical of processed foods, and their widespread use in our diet has been blamed for everything from obesity to cancer. However, other than fresh produce straight from the fields, you would have a hard time finding many unprocessed foods in your local grocery store. Most store-bought foods have been processed in some way including freezing, canning, baking, drying, irradiating and pasteurizing. Processed foods are here to stay, but making informed choices when grocery shopping will allow them to be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

The problem with some of today’s processed foods are the amounts of salt, sugar and fat that are often added to enhance taste, extend shelf life and retain moisture, texture, etc. Because we rely heavily on processed foods, we may be eating more salt, sugar and fat than we need. This is important for people with kidney disease who need to watch salt intake for blood pressure control. Kidney patients who also have diabetes need to limit sugar intake as well. Since both diabetes and kidney disease increase the risk of heart disease, fat intake is another concern.

So how do you select healthier processed foods?

In general, you want to choose products with less fat and sodium, more fiber and the least added sugar. The best way to do this is to read the Nutrition Facts Label and stick to eating one serving of packaged foods. Use the following guidelines when looking at different nutrients and ingredients on the nutrition labels to make better choices:

Trans Fats – Look for 0 grams. Trans fats are hidden in many fried and baked foods like biscuits, cookies, crackers as well as frozen foods. They increase levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL).  If you see shortening or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list, it has trans fat. Remember…Trans fat? Put it back!

Saturated fat – For most people, intake of saturated fat should be around 13-18 grams per day.

Sodium – Sodium intake should be less than 2300 milligrams (mg) per day or 700-800 mg per meal. Look for “no salt added” canned items or items with preferably less than 200 mg per serving. Limit use of boxed side dishes with seasoning packets as well as high sodium condiments like soy sauce, barbeque sauce and bottled dressing and marinades.

Sugar – Sugars are a bit trickier. Instead of grams, check ingredient lists for sugars like corn sweetener and high fructose corn syrup, and words ending in -ose, like dextrose or maltose. If a sugar ingredient is one of the first three ingredients in the list or if there are more than 2-3 different types of sugars, it likely has a lot of added sugar.

Fiber – Look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving for cereal, bread and crackers. Also, look for the word “whole” before grains, like whole wheat. If it says enriched, it’s likely had the fiber removed during processing.

By spending a few extra minutes of your shopping time taking a closer look at the groceries you are buying, you can limit less healthy additives and still enjoy all the benefits of processed foods!

While I agree with Diana now that she’s brought up processed foods, remember your labs will dictate your renal diet.

I almost forgot to tell you: in Honor of World Kidney Day. which was March 9th, SlowItDownCKD 2016 is now available in print on Amazon.com!!!!!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

February is Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, I thought I would write about Blacks who have contributed to the research and treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease. I’ll be highlighting a few people and then dealing with why CKD is treated differently for Blacks.

Ladies first: Dr. Bessie Young is a nephrologist… and more. This is from The University of Washington’s Department of Medicine at young-bessiehttps://medicine.uw.edu/news/dr-bessie-young.

“Dr. Young is a professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and holds adjunct titles in the Departments of Epidemiology and Health Services. She received her MD in 1987 and her MPH in 2001, both from the University of Washington.

Her research focuses on racial disparities and genetic factors predicting outcomes of patients with kidney disease, education regarding access to transplantation and dialysis for minorities, and access to kidney disease care in rural areas.”

While I have great admiration for both Drs. Young and Kountz (see below), I feel a connection with Dr. Vanessa Grubbs. We corresponded a bit when she first began her blog, which is both personal and professional. We all know I’m not a doctor and have never claimed to be one, but I’m convinced I can feel what a nephrologist feels when I read her blog.  This is from The California Health Care Foundation’s website at http://www.chcf.org/authors/vanessa-grubbs?article=%7BF610E00F-9FE7-4E95-AEBB-5781EE7E0F66%7D:

“Dr. Grubbs is an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the University of California, San Francisco, Zuckerberg San Francisco General vanessa-grubbHospital, where she has maintained a clinical practice and clinical research program since 2009. Though most of her time is dedicated to research and patient care, her passion is creative nonfiction writing. She is working on her first book, and she blogs at thenephrologist.com.”

Her book, Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers: A Kidney Doctor’s Search for the Perfect Match will be available on Amazon.com this June. By the way, she donated a kidney to her husband when they were only dating.

Samuel L. Kountz, M.D was another innovative contributor to Nephrology from the Black Community. As Blackpast.org tells us:

“In 1961 Kountz and Roy Cohn, another leading surgeon, performed the first successful kidney transplant between two people who were close relatives but not twins.  Over the next decade Kountz researched the process of kidney transplants on dogs.  He discovered that monitoring blood flow into the new kidney and administering methylprednisolone to the patient after surgery allowed the body to accept the new organ.    samuel-kountz

In 1966 Kountz joined the faculty at Stanford University Hospital and Medical School and in 1967 he became the chief of the kidney transplant service at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).  There he worked with Folker Belzer to create the Belzer kidney perfusion machine.  This innovation kept kidneys alive for 50 hours after being removed from the donor.  Through Kountz’s involvement at UCSF, the institution’s kidney transplant research center became one the best in the country.  Kountz also created the Center for Human Values at UCSF, to discuss ethical issues concerning transplants.”

It’s time for an explanation as to why I wrote “why CKD is treated differently for Blacks,” isn’t it?

This is from Jane E. Brody’s article Doctors sharpen message on kidney disease reprinted in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1:

“There are four main risk factors for kidney disease:  diabetes, high blood pressure, age over 60 and a family history of the disease. Anyone with these risk factors should have a test of kidney function at least once a year, Vassalotti said.  (Me here: he was the National Kidney Foundation’s Chief Medical Officer at the time the article was written). Members of certain ethnic groups are also at higher than average risk: blacks, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.”

This means physicians need to monitor blood pressure and diabetes more closely for blacks (as well as the other high risk groups).

Why, you ask.  This bit from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease will explain about the blood pressure.

“HPB can damage small blood vessels in the kidneys to the point that they cannot filter the waste from the blood as effectively as they should. Nephrologists may prescribe HBP medication to prevent your CKD from getting worse since these medications reduce the amount of protein in your urine.  Not too surprisingly, most CKD related deaths are caused by cardiovascular problems.”IMG_2979

As for diabetes, I turned to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, for this tidbit:

“According to Diabetes.co.uk at http://www.diabetes.co.uk/how-does-diabetes-affect-the-body.html, ‘The kidneys are another organ that is at particular risk of damage as a result of diabetes and the risk is again increased by poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol’”

In addition, there is a gene more prevalent in Blacks that can exacerbate their CKD. “This discovery provides direct evidence that African-Americans with established CKD and the APOL1 risk gene variant experience a faster decline in kidney function compared to their white counterparts, irrespective in most cases of what caused their kidney disease.” Afshin Parsa, M.D., a nephrologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and a CRIC Study investigator.

parsaDr. Parsa was referring to the study on APOL1 which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The following is from The National Kidney Foundation’s Fact Sheet on Blacks and CKD at https://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/factsheets/African-Americans-and-CKD.

  • Blacks and African Americans suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate than Caucasians – more than 3 times higher.
  • African Americans constitute more than 35% of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure, but only represent 13.2% of the overall U.S. population.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in African Americans. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as Caucasians. Approximately 4.9 million African Americans over 20 years of age are living with either diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.
  • The most common type of diabetes in African Americans is type 2 diabetes. The risk factors for this type of diabetes include: family history, impaired glucose tolerance, diabetes during pregnancy, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, obesity and physical inactivity. African Americans with diabetes are more likely to develop complications of diabetes and to have greater disability from these complications than Caucasians. African Americans are also more likely to develop serious complications such as heart disease and strokes.
  • High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure among African Americans, and remains the leading cause of death due to its link with heart attacks and strokes.NKF-logo_Hori_OB

Today’s blog was a bit longer than usual to bring you this important information. We celebrate Black History Month AND need to make our Black family members, friends, and co-workers aware of their heightened risk so they can help prevent their own CKD.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s Unfolding Now

Remember when I was lucky enough to catch the flu just after Christmas? (She wrote sarcastically.) When I went to the Immediate Care facility my doctor is associated with, the doctor there had my records and knew I’d had pleurisy at one time. But now, he ordered a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia. What he found instead was news to me… so, of course, I’m telling you about it.

IMG_2982To quote from the final result report of the X-ray: “There is unfolding of the thoracic aorta.” Huh? In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 there’s an explanation of thorax.

“What?  The what? Oh, the thorax. That’s ‘the part of the human body between the neck and the diaphragm, partially encased by the ribs and containing the heart and lungs; the chest’ according to The Free Dictionary at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/thorax.”

Thoracic is the adjective form of thorax; it describes the aorta in this case.

Do you remember what the aorta is? I sort of, kind of did, but figured I’d better make certain before I started writing about it. MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2295 was helpful here.

“The aorta gives off branches that go to the head and neck, the arms, the major organs in the chest and abdomen, and the legs. It serves to supply them all with oxygenated blood. The aorta is the central conduit from the heart to the body.”

Now I get the connection between Chronic Kidney Disease and the aorta. Did you catch “oxygenated blood” in that definition? And what organs oxygenate the blood? IMG_2980Right. Your kidneys. This excerpt from SlowItDownCKD 2015 may help.

““The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse …explains.

‘Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO, which stimulates the bone marrow to produce the proper number of red blood cells needed to carry oxygen to vital organs.  Diseased kidneys, however, often don’t make enough EPO. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells.’”

With me so far? Now, what the heck is an unfolded aorta? I turned to the British site for radiologists, Radiopaedia.org, at https://radiopaedia.org/articles/unfolded-aorta for the definition. “The term unfolded aorta refers to the widened and ‘opened up’ appearance of the aortic arch on a frontal chest radiograph. It is one of the more common causes for apparent mediastinal widening and is seen with increasing age.

It occurs due to the discrepancy in the growth of the ascending aorta with age, where the length of the ascending aorta increases out of proportion with diameter, causing the plane of the arch to swivel.”

thoracic-aortaI purposely left the click through definitions in so you read them for yourself. You know the drill: click on the link while holding down your control key. For those of you who are reading the print version of the blog, just add the definition of aorta to the common terms we know: arch and ascending.

Mediastinal, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mediastinum is the adjective (describing) form of mediastinum or “the space in the chest between the pleural sacs of the lungs that contains all the tissues and organs of the chest except the lungs and pleurae; also:  this space with its contents.”

Hang on there, folks, just one more definition. I searched for a new site that wouldn’t offer a terribly technical definition of pleura (or pleurae) and found verywell at https://www.verywell.com/pleura-lungs-definition-conditions-2249162.

“The pleura refers to the 2 membranes that cover the lungs and line the chest cavity. The purpose of the pleura is to cushion the lungs during respiration.

The pleural cavity is the space between these 2 membranes and contains pleural fluid.”graduation

Side note: I definitely feel like I’m back teaching a college class again.

Okay, so now we have a bunch of definitions, we’ve put them together as best we can and where does it bring us? Are you ready for this? Nowhere. An unfolding of the thoracic aorta is nothing more than a function of age.

FullSizeRender (2)However, with CKD, it’s somewhere. As was explained in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, “Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.”  We’re already not getting enough oxygen due to our poor, declining in function kidneys.

Am I concerned about the unfolding thoracic aorta? No, not at all. It happens with age; I don’t think I can do anything about that. But, the CKD that also lowers our oxygen production? Oh yes, I can – do – and will do something about that by protecting my kidneys as best I can and keeping the remaining kidney function I have.

Kidneys.com, quoted in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, did a nice job of laying out a plan for me to do just that.

“Along with taking your prescribed blood pressure medications, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising, meditating, eating less sodium,  drinking  less  IMG_2982alcohol  and  quitting  smoking  can  help  lower  blood pressure. Better blood pressure control helps preserve kidney function.”

I added using my sleep apnea machine and aiming for eight hours of sleep a night. I also stick to my renal diet – which limits protein, phosphorous, potassium, and sodium (as mentioned by kidney.com) – for the most part and keeping my kidneys hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of fluid a day.

Is it hard? I don’t know any more. It’s been nine years. They’re simply habits I’ve developed to live as long as I can and, sometimes, even raise the bottled waterfunction of my kidneys.

When my New York daughter was with us over the holidays, I realized how differently we eat than other people do. My husband has chosen to pretty much eat the way I do. So she actually had to go down to the market to pick up the foods that people ordinarily eat.  It would have been funny if I hadn’t been sick. I would have gone with her and laughed each time I answered, “No,” when she asked, “Do you eat this?”laughing

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!

Miracles Redux

Welcome to the last blog of 2016. I find it hard to believe another year has passed, although I do acknowledge that I’m a bit slower and more new-years-eve-celebrations-live-streamcontent to stay in my office to write rather than run around town. It’s a bit harder to maintain my body, although my mind is doing fine… as long as I don’t have to remember too much at once, that is. Well, my knees may have something to say, but I try to keep them happy with daily exercise and the braces.knee brace

I sincerely hope you enjoyed a joyous Christmas if you celebrate. And that you continue to enjoy Chanukah and Kwanzaa (which starts today) if you celebrate. We’ll be leaving for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert as soon as I finish the blog… a gift from us to us and one of the kids for Christmas. On Wednesday, we’ll have our Annual Chanukah Gathering. Our New York daughter will be with us since her Chanukah gift is a plane ticket. Being a two religion family, we celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas.

Before I get to more about creating a miracle, I am proud to announce that Healthline, a trusted health information site,  has named SlowItDownCKD one of The Best Kidney healthlineDisease Blogs of 2016. Talk about being surprised… and honored. Sort of a nice Christmas present, don’t you think? I suppose I can consider the publication of my novel, Portal in Time, my Chanukah present. I didn’t do too shabbily this year.

You know, it’s never too late to give either the novel or one of my Chronic Kidney Disease books as a present. Don’t forget you deserve presents, too.

Okay, on to more about miracles – or Part 2 – as I promised last week.

Unhealthy%20KidneyIf CKD were common knowledge, if those in high risk categories were aware of it, we might have a chance of preventing the disease in those who don’t have it yet and/or slowing down the progression of the decline in kidney function of those who have been already diagnosed.

Exactly how can we do that? On the most basic level, there’s the spoken word. It’s not just the medical community that can talk about the disease. I can as a patient. You can, too, because you know me and I’ve told you about the disease (and/or you suffer from CKD yourself).  This is most effective in areas of the world that do not have access to – or money for – doctors and treatment.  This is where we can prevent more and more of the disease by preventing more and more hypertension and diabetes.

If I tell you what I know about curtailing sodium intake in high blood pressure and you tell me what you know about smoking as it contributes to hypertension, we’ve just shared two important aspects in the prevention of high blood pressure. If I tell you what I know about sugar in diabetes Healthy%20Kidneyand you tell me what you know about carbohydrates and diabetes, we’ve just shared two important aspects in the prevention of diabetes. Then my husband starts sharing what he knows… and your third cousin once removed shares with her East Indian neighbor what her nephrologist told her… and your boss’s secretary shares what his boyfriend learned at his CKD awareness meeting, you’ve got a lot more people aware of what needs to be done about CKD. Sometimes causing a miracle is played out by sharing with people. Think of the miracle this kind of communication on a daily basis can cause.

The people you speak to will share with those they know, those they know will share with others they know until many, many hairmore people become aware of CKD – just as that long ago Clairol hair coloring ad demonstrated how telling someone who tells someone can go on ad infinitum. Simplistic? Yes, but it works…and that’s part of living the life of causing a miracle in CKD.

Then there’s the printed word. If people are aware of CKD books and newspapers, business and educational publications can alert their populations that the disease exists and is lethal, but may be prevented and/or slowed down. Most businesses have wellness components. What perfect vehicles to transform the world’s awareness of CKD.IMG_2979

For example: my four Chronic Kidney Disease books are sold in 106 countries. I have 107,000 readers. This in itself is a miracle, not just for me but for everyone who is in some way connected to the disease. It is not uncommon for one community member to buy the book, then share it with everyone else in their social circle. If there’s a library, the books can be ordered and then shared for free.

These are some of the pieces I’ve written: American Kidney Fund   “Slowing Down CKD –  It Can Be Done”  7/14/16, Dear Annie 10/14, KidneySteps  9/11/13  &  7/4/12, National Kidney Foundation 6/6/13, It Is What It Is 3/9/12, Kevinmd.com 1/1/12, Working with Chronic Illness 1/11/10, KidneyTimes 1/11/10. Bragging? No, just demonstrating it can be done… but I had to cause it to happen by knocking on doors.

I also share my information via this blog. A doctor in a remote village in India prints and translates it to share with whichever patient has the bus fare to make it to the clinic. That patient brings the translation back to his family, friends, neighbors, and whoever else he thinks may be interested. blood drawThis nephrologist’s view is the same as mine: We both need to live a life causing a miracle in Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness by sharing information. People who may not have known Chronic Kidney Disease exists now know via this sharing. Others who have undergone the simple blood and urine tests to diagnose the illness can share that the tests are not painful, other than the initial pinch of the needle for the blood draw. You would be surprised how many people, even in the high risk groups, don’t take the tests because they fear there will be pain involved. No sharing, no awareness. No awareness, no diagnose. No diagnose, no slowing down the disease.

Here are some of the blog and book mentions that have helped in my sharing of the information: Federal Register 9/25/13, The Neuropathy Doctor’s News 9/23/13, The NephCure Foundation 8/21/11, World’s Leading Expert.com 9/11/12, Glendale Community College Gaucho Gazette 8/22/11. These came about without my intervention. So what you share gets shared by others….

I’ve got some more thoughts, but we’ll have to leave them for Part 3 in the New Year. This blog is getting too long and my family is waiting for me.  Happy New Year to each and every one of you. Please be safe if you’re going out to celebrate.

Until next week and the New Year,

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!

Medical Individuals

FullSizeRender (2)We all know I write about Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD, but just what is that? When I wrote What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease six years ago, I defined CKD as “Damage to the kidneys for more than three months, which cannot be reversed but may be slowed.” Although I’m not so sure about that “cannot be reversed” any more, this is simple, right?

Well, not exactly. Over the years, many readers have pointed out that they have another form of kidney disease. According to University Kidney Research Organization (UKRO) @ http://ukrocharity.org/kidney-disease/different-types-of-kidney-diseases/, these are all considered kidney disease:

Wait a minute. Chronic means of long duration. Then with the exception (hopefully) of kidney stones, these diseases can all be classified as CKD… but are they when it comes to treatment?

Dr. Joel Topf is a nephrologist who writes a blog of his own (Precious Bodily Fluids @pbfluids.com) and is a member of the eAJKD Advisory Board at American Journal of Kidney Disease. He must make great use of his time because he has helped develop teaching games for nephrology students and has written medical works. (Yeah, I’m impressed with him, too.)

He’s also a Twitter friend. He contacted me the other day about an article in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology entitled “The CKD Classification System in the Precision Medicine Era,” which was written by Yoshio N. Hall and Jonathan Himmelfarb. You can read it for yourself on their site, but you’ll need to join it and get yourself a user name and password. I didn’t. Joel sent me the copy I needed.

cjasn

My first reaction to his request was, “Sure!” Then I read the article and wondered if I could handle all the medicalese in it. Several readings later, I see why he asked me to write about it.

I say I have CKD stage 3B. You understand what I mean. So does my nephrologist. That’s due to the KDOQI. As I explained in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, this is The National Kidney Foundation Kidney Disease Outcomes FullSizeRender (3)Quality Initiative which was not put into place until 1997 and then updated only five years later in 2002. It introduced stages and put CKD on the world medical map. By the way, the 2012 revised guidelines helped raised awareness of CKD according to the CJASN article: “…from 4.7% to 9.2% among persons with CKD stages 3 and 4 in the United States ….”

But something is missing. How can my stage 3 CKD be the same for someone who has, say, Nephrotic Syndrome? We may have the same GFR, but are our symptoms the same? Is the progression of our illnesses the same? What about our treatment? Our other test results?

Whoops! A certain someone looking over my shoulder as I type reminded me I need to define GFR. I especially like Medline Plus’s definition that I used in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a test used to check how well the kidneys are working. Specifically, it estimates how much blood passes IMG_2980through the glomeruli each minute. Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that filter waste from the blood.”

I know, I know, I didn’t explain what “the Precision Medicine Era” is, either. According to the article, “The underlying concept behind the Precision Medicine Initiative is that disease prevention and treatment strategies must take individual variability into account.” Actually, President Obama first used the term in his State of the Union Address last year.

Alrighty now, back to why CKD staging is not necessarily precision medicine. It seems to center on one phrase – individual variability. I was diagnosed at age 60. I’m now almost 70. Where is the age adjustment in my treatment plan? Is there one? What about when I’m 80? 90? We know the body reacts differently to medications as we age. Is my nephrologist taking this into account? Is yours? I’m taking liberties with the definition of individual here; I don’t think the authors meant within the individual, but rather amongst individuals.

I check my husband’s blood test results for his GFR. FOR HIS AGE, he does not have CKD. But here’s another point I’ve been ranting about that’s brought up in this article. Many elders (Oh my! We’re in that category already.) are not being told if they have stage 1 or stage 2 CKD because their doctors age adjust and so don’t consider the results CKD. We’re getting a little esoteric here. Is CKD really CKD if you’ve age adjusted your GFR readings?

My brain is starting to hurt and I haven’t even written about the different diseases yet, although I did allude to them earlier. What impressed me most in this article is this (in discussing four different hypothetical patients): “Each would be classified as having stage 3 CKD with approximately the same eGFR, but it is patently obvious that virtually every aspect of clinical decision making … would greatly differ in caring for these four individuals.”

I have to agree in my layman way. I’m not a doctor, but I know that if you have Polycystic Kidney Disease and I don’t, although our GFR is the same, I cannot receive the same treatment you do and you cannot receive the same treatment I do. Yes, they’re both kidney diseases and both chronic, but they are not the same disease despite our having the same GFR.

stages of CKDThere is no one size fits all here. Nor does there yet seem to be precision. My CKD at 70 is not the same as it was at 60. If I had diabetes, my CKD treatment would be different, too.  I do have hypertension and that has already changed my CKD treatment.

This got me to thinking. How would every nephrologist find the time for this individualized treatment for each CKD patient? And what other tests will each patient need to determine treatment based on his/her UNIQUE form of CKD?IMG_2982

Thanks for the suggestion, Dr. Topf. This was worth writing about.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

TED Doesn’t Talk to Me; But YouTube Does

After last week’s accolades for the blog about apps for kidney disease, I thought I would keep on the electronic trail and jump right over to one of the big boys: TED Talks. I was both excited and a bit apprehensive since this is new territory for me. I have heard some of my children talk about them, but never explored these talks for myself.

downloadWhat new information could I learn here? Would it be easier or harder to understand? And just what were T.E.D. Talks anyway?  Doing what I like to do best, I jumped in for a bit of research.

This is directly from the TED website at www.ted.com:

“TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”

IMG_2982Considering what’s been going on with our insane politics this election, I thought I would check the meaning of nonpartisan just to make sure it had a meaning other than the one I’d been hearing bantered around. According to the Encarta Dictionary, it means “not belonging to, supporting, or biased in favor of a political party.” I wasn’t so sure that’s what it meant for TED, so I used the synonym function in Word; that made much more sense: impartial, unaligned, unbiased, unprejudiced, neutral, and so on.

Now that we know what TED is, let’s plunge right in and do some exploring. I searched Chronic Kidney Disease and got no hits. That’s all right; a synonym is renal disease. I’ll search that. All that came up was “Timothy Ihrig: What we can do to die well.” That’s not exactly what I was looking for.

I know, I’ll type in kidney failure. Hmmm, that didn’t work very well, either. I found two interesting talks, “Siddhartha Mukherjee: Soon we’ll cure diseases with a cell, not a pill” and “Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney,” as well as two blogs that may have peripherally included CKD. No, these were not the talks about living with CKD that I’d hoped to find.

What other term could I search? I know, how about just-plain-kidney? I got three pages of hits which weren’t really hits at all if you were looking for living with Chronic Kidney Disease. While TED Talks cover a variety of interesting topics, I don’t think they’re CKD specific right now.  Maybe in the future…

I was a little crestfallen, but then I remembered that when I first decided to FullSizeRender (2)become a CKD Awareness Advocate and wrote What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I made a couple of YouTubes as marketing devices. They were terrible, but did include some helpful information. You can see this for yourself at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VcVYhhrixg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRsUNxv7ajA.

When you’ve picked yourself up from the floor after getting your belly laughs at my expense (cringe), start exploring YouTube for CKD information by looking at the side bar on each of my woebegone entries into the world of YouTube.  The list of videos continues and goes on and on. Yay!

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Of course, just as when you’re looking online – or choosing a book – or a blog to follow, you need to be careful to separate the wheat from the chaff. There are charlatans and scammers here, just as there are respected physicians and patients bravely sharing their stories.

But what is YouTube anyway? https://www.youtube.com/yt/about/tells us:

“Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to youtubeconnect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.

YouTube is a Google company.”

You’ll also find some YouTubes I posted that show friends, family, even me dancing either the Blues or East Coast Swing. My point? Anyone can post anything provided it does not include:

Nudity or sexual content

Violent or graphic content

Hateful content

Spam, misleading metadata, and scams

Harmful or dangerous content

Copyright (Me, here, this refers to copyrighted material.)

Threats

You can read more about these community guidelines at https://www.youtube.com/yt/policyandsafety/communityguidelines.html.

I chose one or two posts to see the quality we can find here. (Very funny, no, this is not a case of I- wouldn’t-want-to-be-a-member-of-any-club- that-lets-me-in.) I noticed one of the physicians I’d had contact with as an advocate, Dr. Robert Provenzano, posted about the causes of CKD on 2/3/09 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjZCKBOoeQo which was highly informative… but getting close to seven years old.

I wanted something more recent and found it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1_srNUJkjE. This one by Danuta Trzebinska, MD, of US San Diego Health, deals with possible symptoms of CKD and was posted last year.

But then I found YouTube about a kidney cleanses which could be harmful to already damaged kidneys. Dr. Josh Axe at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AqPE-j3Eq0 was not particularly targeting CKD patients, but as a new CKD patient, how could you know that? Some of the herbs he suggests are harmful to ALREADY COMPROMISED kidneys. You need to be careful about which videos are for those with CKD and which are for those without CKD. Of course, you’re IMG_2980checking everything you see with your nephrologist before you act on it. Right? You are, aren’t you? You’ve got to protect your kidneys, so please (Let’s make that pretty please.) do.

I’m wondering what other electronic helps I could explore. We’ve looked at apps, TED Talks, and YouTube. What other electronic aids do you know about that I don’t? I’ll be more than happy to explore them for myself which means I’ll be exploring them for you, too, since they’re going to end up being the next blog.

halloweenwitchvintageimagegraphicsfairyToday is Halloween. You know those treats? Why not treat yourself by not eating them? It’s hard, but it can be done.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

And I Shall Dance the Night Away

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to dance. Her parents were ballroom dancers: smooth, gliding, and delightful to watch. She ballroomwanted to do that, too, but there were no ballroom lessons for little girls at that time. She took a tap lesson or two, but the dance school was too far away for her to walk or for her driving shy mother to drive.

Then there was nothing until her junior high school offered dance lessons during the physical education period, all kinds of dance: square, cha-cha, rhumba, mambo, salsa, waltz, foxtrot. That’s when she realized her parents were her best dance teachers… and that dancing was in her blood. When she hit college, she went dancing with her buddies every chance she got. At that time, it was clubs.

Eventually she married, had a family, and only danced at weddings. It wasn’t such a happy time for her. But her children grew older and she found she could bring them to swing dances with her. She was happy again. One of these children grew up to initiate and teach blues dance lessons every week.  She was ecstatic.

That group is Sustainable Blues, Phoenix, and that child is Abby Wegerski. The little dancer grown up? It’s me, as if you hadn’t guess by now. And here’s comes the reason for the dancing introduction to this week’s blog.

We have Chronic Kidney Disease; we need to exercise at least half an hour a day for five days a week, daily if possible. This little tidbit from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease explains why:What is it

“I researched, researched and researched again.  Each explanation of what exercise does for the body was more complicated than the last one I read.  Keeping it simple, basically, there’s a compound released by voluntary muscle contraction.  It tells the body to repair itself and grow stronger.”

I went into this just a bit further in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1:

“With Chronic Kidney Disease, I need the daily exercise to keep my organs – all of them – strong, especially since CKD can eventually affect your IMG_2982other organs.  It’s our not-quite-filtered blood that feeds these organs, so we need to keep them healthy in as many ways as we can.”

Okay. Got it. Now the biggie: Is dancing the exercise we think it is?  I turned to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/dancing-your-way-to-better-health#2 for the following:

(Exercise physiologist Catherine Cram, MS, of Comprehensive Fitness Consulting in Middleton, Wis. is the one being quoted.)

“Once someone gets to the point where they’re getting their heart rate up, they’re actually getting a terrific workout….Dance is a weight-bearing activity, which builds bones. It’s also wonderful for your upper body and strength, says Cram.”

Weight-bearing? I wasn’t so sure I could accept that so I turned to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/Bone_Health/Exercise/default.asp for verification.

“The best exercise for your bones is the weight-bearing kind, which forces you to work against gravity. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing.”

Look at that last word. Finally! My weight is working for me, instead of against me. Of course, I am in no way suggesting you gain weight so you can get more of the weight-bearing benefits of dancing. You know that, don’t you? Don’t you????

But that’s not the only benefit of dancing as a weight-bearing exercise. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, FullSizeRender (3)Part 2 I included part of a Los Angeles Times article about weight-bearing exercise. Potteiger is Jeffrey Potteiger, an exercise physiologist at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

“’Another big advantage … is improving glucose metabolism, which can reduce the risk of diabetes. Strength training boosts the number of proteins that take glucose out of the blood and transport it into the skeletal muscle, giving the muscles more energy and lowering overall blood-glucose levels.If you have uncontrolled glucose levels,’ Potteiger said, ‘that can lead to kidney damage, damage to the circulatory system and loss of eyesight.’”

I found the following list on the website of  Australia’s Victoria State Government Better Health Channel at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dance-health-benefits after a bit of digging and liked how succinctly it demonstrated just how much we benefit ourselves when we dance.

 Health benefits of dancing

Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits including:

  • improved condition of your heart and lungs
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
  • increased aerobic fitness
  • improved muscle tone and strength
  • weight managementdepression-cause-heart-attack-1
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility
  • improved balance and spatial awareness
  • increased physical confidence
  • improved mental functioning
  • improved general and psychological wellbeing
  • greater self-confidence and self-esteem
  • better social skills.

Wow – just wow. Who knew that the little girl who loved dancing would grow up to be the woman who used what she loved to help keep her Chronic Kidney Disease under control?

After all this good news – actually joyful to me – I unfortunately have to end this week’s blog on a cautionary note. It’s been brought to my IMG_2980attention that students are still being tricked into wasting their money by renting my Chronic Kidney Disease books for more than it would cost to buy them or asking their libraries to order copies to be borrowed for free . So, here’s the same warning I published earlier this year in SlowItDownCKD 2015.

“Students: do NOT rent any of these (e.g. my CKD books) for a semester.  The cost for that is much higher than buying the book.  Having been a college instructor, I know you sometimes have to buy your textbooks before the class begins and the instructor has the chance to tell you this.”

College has changed. It’s no longer two or three terms a year. Many college classes have staggered start dates, some weekly, some graduationmonthly. Many of the duped students used their financial aid money to pay these book rental companies. Be careful, students.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not Your New Age Crystals

Sometimes, a reader will ask a question and I’ll research the answer for him/her, always explaining first that I’m not a doctor, don’t claim to be one, and (s)he will need to check whatever information I offer with his/her nephrologist before acting on it. There was just such a comment this week: “Just wondering if you have any advice on Gout and it’s effect on Kidney disease? Mary.” Advice? No. Research? Yes.

What is itLet’s establish just what gout is first. This is how it’s defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease :

“gout: particularly painful form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by a build-up of urate crystals in the joints, causing pain and inflammation.”

Urate crystals? MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11853 defines these as: “… salt derived from uric acid. When the body cannot metabolize uric acid properly, urates can build up in body tissues or crystallize within the joints.”

Okay, what’s uric acid then? Thanks to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uric%20acid for the definition:

URIC ACID: a white odorless and tasteless nearly insoluble acid C5H4N4O3 that is the chief nitrogenous waste present in the urine especially of lower vertebrates (as birds and reptiles), is present in small quantity in human urine, and occurs pathologically in renal calculi {A little help here: this means a concretion usually of mineral salts around organic material found especially in hollow organs or ducts} and the tophi of gout.”

Whoops, looks like I missed a definition here: tophi simply means the deposit itself.

You may be wondering what that has to do with Chronic Kidney Disease.  This paragraph from The IMG_2982Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 explains:

“Researching that brought me to an English article from Arthritis Research UK which cited an American study.  I’m going to reproduce only one paragraph of the article here because it brought home exactly what gout with Chronic Kidney Disease can do to your body.

‘The findings were presented at Kidney Week 2011 by researcher Dr Erdal Sarac. He concluded: ‘This study reveals a high prevalence of gout in patients with CKD. Male sex, advanced age, CAD, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia were significantly associated with gout among CKD patients.’”

You may need some more definitions to fully understand that paragraph, so I’m reproducing these from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

CAD: coronary artery disease

hyperlipidemia: high cholesterol

hypertension: high blood pressure

Gout sounds bad. I’ll bet you’re wondering how you can help avoid gout… especially if you have CKD. Let’s go back to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 for a moment.

“One disease, CKD, can be implicated for three others if you also have gout.  … I didn’t know that gout is also somehow in the mix of being medically compromised.  I have hyperlipidemia and hypertension and CKD.  True, I’m not an older male but should I become more vigilant about any hints of gout? ….

bottled waterI would have to be careful about my food and beverage intake. Oh, wait, I’m already doing that by following the renal diet. In both, you are urged to cut back on alcohol and drink more water instead. Purines are a problem, too, but then again I am limited to five ounces of protein {A purine food source} per day. Hmmm, avoiding sugar-sweetened drinks may help. Say, with CKD, I have to watch my A1C {How the body handles glucose or sugar in a three month period} so that I don’t end up with diabetes.  That means I’m watching all my sugar intake already. I see fructose rich fruits can be a problem.  But I’m already restricted to only three servings of fruit a day!  Oh, here’s the biggie: lose weight.  Yep, been hearing that from my nephrologist for four (Me here: it’s more like nine years now.) years.  To sum up, by attending to my CKD on a daily basis, I’m also attempting to avoid or lessen the effects of gout.

This is getting very interesting.  I also take medication for both hypertension and hyperlipidemia.  Are they also helping me to avoid gout?  It seems to me that by treating one condition {Or two in my case}, I’m also treating my CKD and possibly preventing another.  It is all inter-related.”

By the way, based upon another reader’s question I mentioned cherries and gout in The Book of FullSizeRender (3)Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“From my reading, I’ve also garnered the information that cherries can help with iron deficiencies, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, help with gout, and lower the risk of heart disease.

Or can they? Remember that too much potassium can actually cause an irregular heartbeat or possibly stop your heart.”

So now, we need to watch purines and potassium, too. Aha! Following the renal diet already is helping to avoid potassium. What about purines? According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/tc/diet-and-gout-topic-overview:

“Purines (specific chemical compounds found in some foods) are broken down into uric acid. A diet rich in purines from certain sources can raise uric acid levels in the body, which sometimes leads to gout. Meat and seafood may increase your risk of gout. Dairy products may lower your risk.”cherries

It seems to me a small list of high purine foods is appropriate here. Gout Education at http://gouteducation.org/patient/gout-treatment/diet/ offers just that. This also appears to be an extremely helpful site for those wanting to know more about gout.

“Because uric acid is formed from the breakdown of purines, high-purine foods can trigger attacks. It is strongly encouraged to avoid:

  • Beer and grain liquors
  • Red meat, lamb and pork
  • Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys and sweetbreads
  • Seafood, especially shellfish, like shrimp, lobster, mussels, anchovies and sardines”

Does this list sound familiar? It should if you’re following the renal diet. While not exactly the same, there’s quite a bit of overlap in the two diets.

Mary… and every other reader… I hope this was enough information for you to write a list of questions about CKD and gout to bring to your next nephrology appointment.

IMG_2980Until next week,

Keep living your life!

How Sweet She Is

For 12 years, sweet Ms. Bella has positioned herself just inside my office door as I wrote, researched, edited, and formatted. For 12 years, sweet Ms. img_3326Bella has greeted me as effusively when I returned from a trip to the mailbox as she did when I returned from a trip to Alaska. For 12 years, sweet Ms. Bella has shared one sided conversations with me about any and everything. For 12 years, sweet Ms. Bella has adored me as no other being on earth ever has.

I’ll miss that. Sweet Ms. Bella crossed what I’m told is called The Rainbow Bridge this morning. .. and it was my decision. I’ve known for months that she had lymphedema. First we tried this. Then we tried that. And finally there was nothing else left to try. I am oh-so-sad without my boon companion, but it was time. She knew it and I knew it. May your soul come back to me, my sweet Ms. Bella.

I’ve been sad for a while knowing that I would have to make this decision and wondering how I would know when she’d had enough. I watched…and watched…and watched, yet she made it perfectly clear when her legs wouldn’t hold her up anymore and her cancerous lymph nodes started to impede her eating. She is at rest now.

What have I done to my kidneys with all this sadness, I wondered. I don’t know via my lab reports because I was just tested last Thursday and Urine_sampledidn’t know about sweet Ms. Bella’s cancer when my blood and urine were tested three months ago. So I did what I could to find out: I researched.

I found this on the National Kidney Foundation’s site at https://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/nr/depression-kd:

New York, NY (July 1, 2012) – People with kidney disease who have symptoms of depression may be on the fast track to dialysis, hospitalization or death, according to a new study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation.”

But I’m not depressed; I’m sad.  Well, what’s the difference? I turned to my old buddy WebMD for some help here:

“….Also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or unipolar depression, major depression is a medical condition that goes beyond life’s ordinary ups and downs. Almost 18.8 million American adults experience depression each year, and women are nearly twice as likely as men to develop major depression. People with depression cannot simply ‘pull themselves together’ and get better. Treatment with counseling, medication, or both is key to recovery.”

Since I’m one of those people who always manage to get myself back together – and fairly quickly – I’d say I’m not depressed. I do suggest you read more about depression at http://www.webmd.com/depression/is-it-depression-or-the-blues if this strikes a chord with you.

So let’s go back to sadness and the kidneys. This is from a 5/21/14 article on a site that’s new to me: Medical Daily at http://www.medicaldaily.com/can-powerful-emotions-kill-you-negative-health-effects-anger-stress-sadness-and-shock-283682:

heart attack” ‘It’s called heartbreak for a reason. When you’re experiencing deep grief or sadness, it takes a toll on your health, too. One study from St. George’s University of London found that it is actually possible to die of a broken heart — bereavement increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke by nearly double after a partner’s death, the researchers discovered. We often use the term a ‘broken heart’ to signify the pain of losing a loved one and our study shows that bereavement can have a direct effect on the health of the heart,’ Dr. Sunil Shah, senior lecturer in public health at St. George’s, said in a press release.”

There’s a firm connection between heart health and kidney health. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“We’re used to reading about anemia and high blood pressure as the connection between CKD and Heart Disease, but here are two other causes.

DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/symptoms-and- diagnosis/ chronic-kidney-disease-and-your-heart/e/4730 once again jumps in to educate us:

‘High homocysteine levels: Damaged kidneys cannot remove extra homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. High levels of homocysteine can lead to coronary artery disease, stroke and heart attack.IMG_2980

Calcium-phosphate levels: Damaged kidneys cannot keep calcium and phosphorus levels in balance. Often, there’s too much phosphorus and calcium in the blood. When this happens, there’s a risk for coronary artery disease.’”

Hmmm, just by having Chronic Kidney Disease, we run the risk of heart problems.  Now sadness – maybe ‘deep grief’ is a more apt description – may add to that risk. As much as I love sweet Ms. Bella and will miss her, I can’t honestly say this is true for me. It feels like there’s a big difference between deep grief and sadness.

Just to make certain the difference between depression and sadness is clear, I’m repeating this information from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“Make The Connection, a veterans’ support site tells us

‘Not everyone with depression has the same symptoms or feels the same way. One person might have difficulty sitting still, while another may FullSizeRender (3)find it hard to get out of bed each day. Other symptoms that may be signs of depression or may go along with being depressed include:

It doesn’t look like my short term sadness is worsening my kidneys in any way, but if you’re not sure whether you need help with yours, or if it is truly depression, seek help. It can’t hurt to be careful.

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I’m certain sweet Ms. Bella is not suffering anymore and that is already doing wonders for my peace of mind… and my sadness.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Feeling the Pressure

labor dayFor those of you in the United States, here’s hoping you have a healthy, safe Labor Day.  I come from a Union family. So much so that my maternal grandfather was in and out of jail for attempting to unionize brass workers. That was quite a bit of pressure on my grandmother, who raised the four children and ran a restaurant.

I knew there was more than my personal history with the holiday so I poked around and found this from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/09/04/labor-day-history/89826440/

“In the late 1800s, the state of labor was grim as U.S. workers toiled under bleak conditions: 12 or more hour workdays; hazardous work environments; meager pay. Children, some as young as 5, were often fixtures at plants and factories.

The dismal livelihoods fueled the formation of the country’s first labor unions, which began to organize strikes and protests and pushed employers for better hours and pay. Many of the rallies turned violent.

On Sept. 5, 1882 — a Tuesday — 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march in a parade from City Hall to Union Square in New York City as a tribute to American workers. Organized by New York’s Central Labor Union, It was the country’s first unofficial Labor Day parade. Three years later, some city ordinances marked the first government recognition, and legislation soon followed in a number of states.”

Now that’s pressure, but I want to write about another kind of pressure today: your blood pressure.Mahomeds Sphygmograph

Being one of those people who is required to check their blood pressure at least once a day, I was surprised to learn that doctors didn’t realize the importance of maintaining moderate blood pressure until the 1950s. Yet, ancient Chinese, Greeks, and Egyptians knew about the pulse. I wonder what they thought that was.

The American Heart Association explains the difference between the blood pressure and the pulse, and offers a chart to exemplify. The column without the heading refers to ‘Heart Rate.’

Blood Pressure
What is it? The force the heart exerts against the walls of arteries as it pumps the blood out to the body The number of times your heart beats per minute
What is the unit of measurement? mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) BPMs (beats per minute)
What do the numbers represent? Includes two measurements:
Systolic pressure
(top number):
 The pressure as the heart beats and forces blood into the arteries
Diastolic pressure
(bottom number):
 The pressure as the heart relaxes between beats
Includes a single number representing the number of heart beats per minute
Sample reading 120/80 mm Hg 60 BPM

You can read more about this at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Blood-Pressure-vs-Heart-Rate_UCM_301804_Article.jsp.

bp cuffAccording to Withings, a French company that sells blood pressure monitoring equipment, at http://blog.withings.com/2014/05/21/the-history-of-blood-pressure/:

“The first study on blood circulation was published in 1628 by William Harvey – an English physician. He came to the conclusion that the heart acts as a pump. At that point it wasn’t clear that blood circulated, but after a little calculation he was pretty sure that blood is not ‘consumed’ by the organs. The physician then concluded that blood must be going though (sic) a cycle.”

Ah, but did his measurement include both numbers? In What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I satisfied my own curiosity as to why our blood pressure readings always have two numbers, one atop the other:What is it

“The first number… called the systolic is the rate at which the heart contracts, while the second or diastolic … is when the heart is at rest between contractions.  These numbers measure the units of millimeters of mercury to which your heart has raised the mercy.”

Uh, raised the mercury of what? Well it’s not the sphygmomanometer as we now know it. By the way, this is the connection between blood pressure and Chronic Kidney Disease that I mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“I wonder how frustrated Dr. Bright became when he first suspected that hypertension had a strong effect on the kidneys, but had no way to proveIMG_2980 that theory since the first practical sphygmomanometer (Me here: That’s the device that measures your blood pressure.)  wasn’t yet available.”

Well, why is hypertension – high blood pressure – important in taking care of your kidneys anyway?  It’s the second leading cause of CKD. The Mayo Clinic succinctly explains why at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868

“Your kidneys filter excess fluid and waste from your blood — a process that depends on healthy blood vessels. High blood pressure can injure both the blood vessels in and leading to your kidneys, causing several types of kidney disease (nephropathy). “

Well, how do you avoid it then? One way is to take the pressure off yourself. (As a writer, I’m thoroughly enjoying that this kind of pressure can affect the other kind – the blood pressure. As a CKD patient, I’m not.)

Pressure on yourself is usually considered stress. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, there’s an explanation of what stress does to your body.

FullSizeRender (3)“…we respond the same way whether the stress is positive or negative…. First you feel the fight or flight syndrome which means you are releasing hormones.  The adrenal glands which secrete these hormones lay right on top of your kidneys. Your blood sugar raises, too, and there’s an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure.  Diabetes {High blood sugar} and hypertension {High blood pressure} both play a part in Chronic Kidney Disease. If you still haven’t resolved the stress, additional hormones are secreted for more energy.”

What else? This list from the American Kidney Fund was included in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1:IMG_2982

  • Eat a diet low in salt and fat
  • Be physically active
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Control your cholesterol
  • Take medicines as directed
  • Limit alcohol
  • Avoid tobacco

AKF logo Why am I not surprised at how much this looks like the list for healthy kidneys?

I was just thinking: what better day to start working on this list than Labor Day?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

The Nutrition Action Health Letter Article

I am now officially excited.  I’d been getting some comments about this article which I thought wasn’t being published until September. I wondered why. It was my mistake. The article was to appear in the September issue, which I didn’t realize is published before the month begins.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s September Nutrition Action Health Letter is out… and younutrition can read it online, too. The URL is http://www.nutritionaction.com/wp-content/uploads/cover-Kidney-Check-How-to-Keep-Yours-Going-Strong.pdf. Many thanks to Bonnie Liebman for such a fine job of reporting and aiding in spreading Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness. It’s long, six pages, so what we have here are excerpts.

 

David White“I didn’t know that I had end-stage renal disease until I was admitted to the hospital in 2009,” says David White, who was then in his mid-40s. “A few days later, I stopped producing urine.”

Doctors told White that he had crashed. “It was scary,” he says. “I went from ‘Something may be wrong’ to ‘Oh my god am I going to die?’ to ‘I have to spend the rest of my life on dialysis.’”

And with four hours of dialysis three times a week, he never felt great.

“People call it the dialysis hangover,” says White, from Temple Hills, Maryland. “You’re so tired that you want to sleep all day after dialysis and most of the following day. And then you gear up for the next treatment.”

And White struggled with his one-quart-a-day limit on fluids. “When you drink too much, moving isn’t comfortable, laying down isn’t comfortable,” he says. “It’s hard to breathe.”

For Gail Rae-Garwood, the news about her kidneys came when she switched to a new doctor closer to herNutrition home in Glendale, Arizona.

“She decided that as a new patient, I should have all new tests,” says Rae-Garwood, now 69. “When the results came in, she got me an appointment with a nephrologist the next day. When you get an appointment with a specialist the next day, you know something is not right.”

Rae-Garwood had chronic kidney disease. “My GFR was down to 39, and apparently had been low for quite a while,” she says. (Your GFR, or glomerular filtration rate, is the rate at which your kidneys filter your blood.) “‘What is chronic kidney disease and how did I get it?’ I demanded,” recalls Rae-Garwood.

Every 30 minutes, your kidneys filter all the blood in your body. Without at least one, you need dialysis or a transplant. Yet most people have no idea how well their kidneys are working. “It’s very common for people to have no idea that they have early chronic kidney disease,” says Alex Chang, a nephrologist at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania.

A routine blood test sent to a major lab—like Quest or LabCorp—typically includes your GFR. If it doesn’t, your doctor can calculate it.

kidney function“A GFR is pretty routine for anyone who has blood work done,” says Chang. “But if you have very mild kidney disease, and especially if you’re older, a doctor might not mention it since kidney function tends to decline as you age.”

Doctors also look for kidney disease by testing your urine for a protein called albumin …. “That’s usually only done if you have high blood pressure or diabetes or some risk factor for kidney disease other than age,” says Chang.

Rae-Garwood’s previous doctor missed that memo. “I had been on medication for high blood pressure for decades,” she explains. “I wonder how much more of my kidney function I could have preserved if I’d known about it earlier.”

***

David White had kidney transplant in 2015. “It’s given me my life back,” he says. “No more dialysis.”

He takes anti-rejection drugs and steroids, and, like Rae-Garwood, he gets exercise and has to watch what he eats.

“I’ve changed my diet radically,” says Rae-Garwood. “I have to limit the three P’s—protein, potassium, What is itand phosphorus. I’m restricted to 5 ounces of protein a day. We have no red meat in the house. Any product above 7 or 8 percent of a day’s worth of sodium I don’t buy.

“And you know what? It’s fine. It’s been nine years now, and I’ve been able to keep my GFR around 50.”

Both patients are now advocates for preventing kidney disease. “I’ve written four books and almost 400 weekly blogs, and I post a daily fact about chronic kidney disease on Facebook,” says Rae-Garwood. White chairs the the MidAtlantic Renal Coalition’s patient advisory committee, among other things among other things.

“Get tested,” urges Rae-Garwood. “Millions of people have chronic kidney disease and don’t even know it. All it takes is a blood and urine test.”

My hope is that as a result of this article, more libraries, medical schools, and nephrology practices will IMG_2982order copies of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney FullSizeRender (3)Disease, 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. If you have a Kindle, Amazon has two wonderful low cost or free programs that may make it easier for you, your loved ones, and anyone you think could benefit from these books to read them.

This is how Amazon explains these programs:

“Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates.”

Barnes and Noble doesn’t have any such programs, but they do offer discount deals daily, which you can use to purchase any book.IMG_2980

I urge you to help spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease in any way you can. Here’s another quote from the article that may help you understand why:

“One out of ten adults have chronic kidney disease. Most don’t know it because early on, kidney disease has no symptoms. And because the risk rises as you age, roughly one out of two people aged 30 to 64 are likely to get the disease during their lives….”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

CKD Treatment Interruptus

Recently, someone close to me experienced a major burglary.  After calling the police, he called me. That’s what my friends do and I’m thankful they do. I kept him on the phone while I threw on some clothes and sped over to his house. This is a strong, independent man who was shocked at the intimacy of the invasion of his home. When I got there, we walked from room to room, astonished at how much had been stolen.

That night, I couldn’t leave – not even to go home for my evening medications and supplements. That night, I couldn’t sleep while my buddy was in such turmoil. So we sat up staring at the empty space where the TV had been.  He’s not on the renal diet and all he had that I could eat was some chicken, no fruit, no vegetables. And I was too busy being with him to exercise. This was my good buddy of over 30 years standing.

The next morning, another friend came over to help with security devices and spend time with our mutual friend.  I got to go home, take my morning medications, and crawl into bed for ½ an hour. But then our mutual friend had to go to work, so I went back to my buddy’s house and spent the day helping him try to list what was missing, what to do about the insurance, how to handle going to work, etc. The word spread, and, suddenly, a third friend was coming to spend the night with him and another couple joined them to make dinner.  I could go home again.    friends

But I was exhausted. I ate stupidly: Chinese restaurant food with all that sodium. I even ate rice, and here I am on a low carbohydrate diet. I sat in the living room like a zombie while Bear waited on me hand and foot.

Even with all this help, my buddy needed to see me daily. I was his strength. So we ran around rummaging up some receipts he’d need for the insurance. But I could see he was feeling better. Our mutual friends were amazing, including those who couldn’t leave work to come so kept phoning and texting instead. A different someone else stayed with him overnight again.  Then he only needed to see me for a quick hug… and yet another someone else stayed with him overnight again. He didn’t really need me anymore, which is great because I started breaking down.

sad faceI have Chronic Kidney Disease. I need to sleep adequately – and with my BiPap. I need to follow the renal diet. I need to exercise. I need to rest.  I did very little of any of this during the trauma itself, and that’s alright. This is my long term buddy – as grown up and mature as he is – and he needed me. But what did I do to myself?

You guessed it. Right away, my blood pressure shot up and that’s a bad thing. Why? Let me tell you… or you can go to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, page 9.  FullSizeRender (2)

“Through my research, I began to understand what high blood pressure [HPB] has to do with renal disease.  HPB can damage small blood vessels in the kidneys to the point that they cannot filter the waste from the blood as effectively as they should. Nephrologists may prescribe HBP medication to prevent your CKD from getting worse since these medications reduce the amount of protein in your urine.  Not too surprisingly, most CKD related deaths are caused by cardiovascular problems.”

FullSizeRender (3)What about the stress?  What was that doing to my poor overworked kidneys?  I went to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 for the answer to that one:

“First you feel the fight or flight syndrome which means you are releasing hormones.  The adrenal glands which secrete these hormones lay right on top of your kidneys. Your blood sugar raises, too, and there’s an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure.  Diabetes {Blood sugar} and hypertension {Blood pressure} both play a part in Chronic Kidney Disease.”

That’s two strikes against me. I almost hesitate to think about exercise… or the lack of it for several consecutive days.  This is one of the points about treating prediabetes (which I have and so do so many of you) from the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prediabetes/basics/treatment/con-20024420 which was included in SlowItDownCKD 2015:IMG_2980

“Losing excess pounds. If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight — only 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9 kilograms) if you weigh 200 pounds (91 kilograms) — can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. Motivate yourself by remembering the benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy and improved self-esteem.”

And the renal diet? We mustn’t forget about the renal diet. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Kidney Disease, Part 1 I quoted from http://www.yourkidneys.com/kidney-education/Treatments/Living-a-full-life-after-a-chronic-kidney-disease-diagnosis/3189 which is part of Yourkidneys.com from DaVita:

“Depending on what stage of Chronic Kidney Disease you’re in, your renal dietitian will adjust the amounts of protein, sodium, phosphorus and potassium in your diet. In addition, carbohydrates and fats may be controlled based on conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The IMG_2982CKD non-dialysis diet includes calculated amounts of high quality protein. Damaged kidneys have a difficult time getting rid of protein waste products, so cutting back on non-essential protein will put less stress on your kidneys.”

Have I done more permanent damage to my kidneys? I’m hoping not since it was just a few days and I made the conscious decision to be with my buddy instead of tending to myself. Let’s consider this a cautionary tale instead.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The American Kidney Fund Blog

AKF logoI was honored that The American Kidney Fund (www.kidneyfund.org) asked me to write a blog for them. This is that blog. Once it was published last Thursday, I started thinking. If you share the blog and ask those you shared with to share it, too, and they asked their friends to share it, too… image how many people would become aware of Chronic Kidney Disease. Will you do that?

Slowing Down CKD—It Can Be Done

When a new family doctor told me nine years ago that I had a problem with my kidneys—maybe chronic kidney disease (CKD)–my first reaction was to demand, “What is it and how did I get it?”

No doctor had ever mentioned CKD before.

I was diagnosed at stage 3; there are only 5 stages. I had to start working to slow it down immediately. I wanted to know how medication, diet,stages of CKD exercise and other lifestyle changes could help. I didn’t want to be told what to do without an explanation as to why… and when I couldn’t get an explanation that was acceptable to me, I started researching.

I read just about every book I could find concerning this problem. Surprisingly, very few books dealt with the early or moderate stages of the disease.  Yet these are the stages when we are most shocked, confused, and maybe even depressed—and the stages at which we have a workable chance of doing something to slow down the progression in the decline of our kidney function.

I’ve learned that 31 million people—14 percent of the population—have CKD, but most don’t know they have it. Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before it was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD.

I saw a renal dietician who explained to me how hard protein is on the kidneys… as is phosphorous… and potassium… and, of course, sodium. Out bananawent my daily banana—too high in potassium. Out went restaurant burgers—larger than my daily allowance of protein. Chinese food? Pizza? Too high in sodium. I embraced an entirely new way of eating because it was one of the keys to keeping my kidneys functioning in stage 3.

Another critical piece of slowing down CKD is medication. I was already taking meds to lower my blood pressure when I was first diagnosed with CKD. Two more prescriptions have been added to this in the last nine years: a diuretic that lowers my body’s absorption of salt to help prevent fluid from building up in my body (edema), and a drug that widens the blood vessels by relaxing them.

For a very short time, I was also taking a drug to control my pre-diabetes, but my doctor and I achieved the same effects by changing my diet even more. (Bye-bye, sugars and most carbs.) The funny thing is now my favorite food is salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I never thought that would happen: I was a chocoholic!

Exercise, something I loved until my arthritis got in the way, was also important. I used to dance vigorously several nights a week; now it’s once a week with weights, walking, and a stationary bike on the other days. I think I took sleep for granted before CKD, too, and I now make it a point to blues dancersget a good night’s sleep each day. A sleep apnea device improved my sleep—and my kidney function rose another two points.

I realized I needed to rest, too. Instead of giving a lecture, running to an audition, and coming home to meet a deadline, I slowly started easing off until I didn’t feel like I was running on empty all the time. I ended up happily retiring from both acting and teaching at a local college, giving me more time to work on my CKD awareness advocacy.

I was sure others could benefit from all the research I had done and all I had learned, so I wrote my first book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, in 2011. I began a blog after a nephrologist in India told me he wanted his newly diagnosed patients to read my book, but most of them couldn’t afford the bus fare to the clinic, much less a book. I published each chapter as a blog post. The nephrologist translated my posts, printed them and distributed them to his patients—who took the printed copies back to their villages. I now have readers in 106 different countries who ask me questions I hadn’t even thought of. I research for them and respond with a blog post, reminding them to speak with their nephrologists and/or renal nutritionists before taking any action… and that I’m not a doctor.

What is itEach time I research, I’m newly amazed at how much there is to learn about CKD…and how many tools can 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.

My experience proves that you can slow down CKD. I was diagnosed at stage 3 and I am still there, nine years later. It takes knowledge, commitment and discipline—but it can be done, and it’s worth the effort. I’m sneaking up on 70 now and know this is where I want to spend my energy for the rest of my life: chronic kidney disease awareness advocacy. I think it’s just that important.

IMG_1398SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

 

SlowItDownCKD is the umbrella under which Gail Rae-Garwood writes her CKD books and blog, offers talks, participates in book signings, is interviewed on podcasts and radio shows, and writes guest blogs. Her website is www.gail-raegarwood.com.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Two Levels?

I am now the very satisfied user of a Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure Machine (BiPAP). I fought against this for years, preferring to use a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) instead so I wouldn’t be ‘tethered’ to a machine. After only two nights of sleeping with the BiPAP, I have more energy and less brain fog. Heck, that happened after only one night. I wonder just how much of the low energy and high brain fog that I was attributing to Chronic Kidney Disease was really from not enough oxygen and too much CO2 in my lungs.

Whoops, here I am jumping in at the end again. Maybe a reminder of what a MAD is would be the logical place to start. This is what I wrote in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2,Digital Cover Part 2 redone - Copy

“…the MAD forces your airway open by advancing your lower jaw or mandibular.”

If your air passages are restricted, you’re simply not getting enough air into the lungs.

After well over two years, my sleep apnea started becoming worse instead of better, even when the MAD had been extended as far as it could go to keep that airway open. (Laughing over here; it sounds like an instrument of torture. It isn’t.)

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with CKD. I used my baby, What Is It and How Did I Get it? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to find out.

What is it“The first mention of the lungs was in an explanation of your nephrologist’s ROS. ‘Then came the Review of Systems [ROS]. …, the lungs were referred to with questions about coughs, shortness of breath and dyspnea.’”

That does still leave us with the question of why the lungs were covered at all in this examination for CKD. According to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20676805, one of the National Institutes of Health’s sites, sleep apnea can raise blood pressure, which in itself is one of the problems of CKD.  It can also result in glomerular hyperfiltration.  The chart below is from their site.  Notice ‘eGFR declines’ is one of the results. These three areas are the most important to us as CKD patients, which doesn’t mean the other effects should be ignored.

 

NIHMS233212.html

What was missing for me was why it was so important to get as much air into the lungs as possible. Livescience at http://www.livescience.com/37009-human-body.html was able to help me out here.

“….The lungs are responsible for removing oxygen from the air we breathe and transferring it to our blood where it can be sent to our cells. The lungs also remove carbon dioxide, which we exhale.”

Why not a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine then, you ask? WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/continuous-positive-airway-pressure-cpap-for-obstructive-sleep-apnea explains:

“A CPAP machine increases air pressure in your throat so that your airway doesn’t collapse when you breathe in.” CPAP

Got it… and necessary when you have sleep apnea. So the next logical question is why was I prescribed a BiPAP instead. Notice in the explanation from Livescience above that the lungs also remove carbon dioxide. Yep, not enough was being removed as I slept.

I liked this explanation of the difference between the CPAP and the BiPAP from verywell at https://www.verywell.com/what-is-bipap-3015273 :

“The key distinguishing feature of BiPAP is that the pressurized air is delivered at two alternating levels. The inspiratory positive airway pressure (IPAP) is higher and supports a breath as it is taken in. Conversely, the expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) is a lower pressure that allows you to breathe out. These pressures are preset based on a prescription provided by your sleep doctor and alternate just like your breathing pattern.”

It’s when you breathe out that you rid yourself of carbon dioxide. But I wanted to know why too much of that in your system is not a good thing. I was delighted to find this scientific, yet understandable, (albeit older) posting by then Ph.D. candidate Shannon DeVaney at http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2005-06/1118758011.Gb.r.html. MadSci is a service provided by Washington University in St. Louis.

“…much of the body’s excess carbon dioxide ends up in the blood…. The net effect of increased carbon dioxide in the blood is lowered blood pH (that is, the blood becomes more acidic). The ability of hemoglobin to bind with oxygen decreases with decreasing pH in a phenomenon called the Bohr effect (sic). Because of the Bohr effect, increasing CO2 concentrations indirectly reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

BiPAPCarbon dioxide can also react with parts of the hemoglobin molecule to form carbamino compounds. The formation of these compounds directly reduces the ability of hemoglobin to bind with oxygen and therefore also reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

So, in these two ways (indirectly by reducing blood pH and directly by reacting with hemoglobin) carbon dioxide can reduce the ability of our blood to carry oxygen to tissues throughout the body where it is needed. It’s a good thing, then, that the excess carbon dioxide in our blood diffuses into our lungs, where it leaves the body when we exhale.”

Except in my case, it wasn’t. Hence the BiPAP to help me out.  If the results of the last two nights continue, it seems I needed an awful lot of helping out… and I didn’t know it. So far today, I have booked a combined 70th birthday cruise to Cuba for Bear and me, conferred many times by phone SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)and text with my wonderful sister-in-law – Judy Peck (mentioned several times in SlowItDownCKD 2015) – about cabins, insurance, land excursions, packages, etc., then gotten back to our travel agent with our decisions, spoken with three different doctors and two labs, communicated with three of my daughters, contacted our donation center for pick up, and scheduled several maintenance jobs for my house – and I’m not tired. I haven’t yawned once. I could learn to like living like this.

By the way, between Medicare and my secondary insurance, this is not costing me a thing. Oh goody, more money for our birthday present to ourselves.

Until next week,DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Keep living your life!

Psoriatic Arthritis on Memorial Day

Memorial DayToday is Memorial Day. I find myself having a hard time saying ‘happy’ and ‘Memorial Day’ together.

For those of you outside of the U.S., this is a holiday started as Decoration Day by freed slaves after our Civil War to commemorate the lives of those who died earning their freedom. Slowly, individual states made this day for decorating graves a holiday and then it became a national one.

I am married to a veteran. There is nothing happy about this holiday, although there is respect and gratitude… at least in my house.

I have respect and gratitude for our living soldiers, too. That brings us to the subject of today’s blog: psoriatic arthritis and Chronic Kidney Disease. A close friend of the family – an Airman – wanted this information for his father. I was happy to oblige him, even more than I usually am to answer readers’ questions since he is military and he asked on Memorial Day.

As usual, we need to go back to the basics here. In this case, that means going back to the blog about psoriasis in The Book of Blogs: ModerateDigital Cover Part 2 redone - Copy Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2.   That’s where I first wrote the following information about psoriasis:

“…according to Psoriasis.com at http://www.psoriasis.com/what-is-psoriasis.aspx

‘psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease of the immune system. While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, scientists believe the immune system mistakenly activates a reaction in the skin cells, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells.’

There are seven types of psoriasis.  The one you are probably familiar with – if you are familiar with any – is plaque psoriasis. WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/psoriasis-types?page=1  tells us:

psorasis‘About eight in 10 people with psoriasis have this type. It is also sometimes known as psoriasis vulgaris. Plaque psoriasis causes raised, inflamed, red skin covered by silvery white scales. These may also itch or burn. Plaque psoriasis can appear anywhere on your body….’

Here’s the most important information in that particular blog for us as CKD patients:

“…doctors now know they need to screen psoriasis patients for CKD, although it seems to be only those patients with over 3% of their bodies affected by psoriasis who have doubled their risk of CKD. With 60% of the population at risk for CKD, it could be that percentage may change once these routine CKD screenings for psoriasis are in place, especially since psoriasis is also so common among every ethnic group.  This, of course, also includes those populations we know are at high risk for CKD.”

But my young Airman friend asked about psoriatic arthritis and Chronic Kidney Disease, so we need to take a look at what arthritis is.

According to The U.S. National Library of Medicine at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024677/:

arthritis

“Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. Joints are places in the body where bones come together, such as the knees, wrists, fingers, toes, and hips. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.”

Hmmm, no mention of psoriatic arthritis. That’s all right. I’m sure the American College of Rheumatology can help us out here. There’s more information on their site at http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Psoriatic-Arthritis.

“Psoriatic arthritis is a type of inflammation that occurs in about 15 percent of patients who have a skin rash called psoriasis. This particular arthritis can affect any joint in the body, and symptoms vary from person to person. Research has shown that persistent inflammation from psoriatic arthritis can lead to joint damage. Fortunately, available treatments for are effective for most people. Psoriatic arthritis usually appears in people between the ages of 30 to 50, but can begin as early as childhood. Men and women are equally at risk. Children with psoriatic arthritis are also at risk to develop uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye). Approximately 15 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. At times, the arthritis can appear before the skin disorder.”

Ah, we know Chronic Kidney Disease is an inflammatory disease. Now we know that arthritis is, too. Being a purist over here, I wanted to check on psoriasis to see if falls into this category, too. Oh my! According to a Position Statement from the American Academy of Dermatologists and AAD Association at https://www.aad.org/Forms/Policies/Uploads/PS/PS-Maintenance%20Therapy%20for%20Psoriasis%20Patients.pdf:

“Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory, multi-system disease associated with considerable morbidity and co-morbid conditions.”

SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

Arthritis is an inflammatory disease; psoriasis is an inflammatory disease; and Chronic Kidney Disease is an inflammatory disease. The common factor here is obvious – inflammatory disease. So what, if anything, can my young Airman friend suggest to his father (other than the most important: See your doctor.)?

What is itCertainly not to take NSAIDS. I defined  – and cautioned against – NSAIDS in the glossary of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. There’s been no new research to debunk this warning since then.

“NSAID: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, Aleve or naproxen usually used for arthritis or pain management, can worsen kidney disease, sometimes irreversibly.”

Well, what can the man do for these three inflammatory diseases? Let’s take a look at Dr. Rich Snyder’s guest blog in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1. In discussing probiotics and alkaline water, he threw in this little gem.

Alkaline/anti-inflammatory based diet: Some say, “Eat for your blood type.” But, what is the DASH diet for hypertension? It is not just a low salt  It is also full of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory.”

Food as medicine for an inflammatory body condition? DASH diet? Whoa! I just realized that this is the way I’ve come to eat myself in the last nine years.  What is the DASH diet? “DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension….”

Take a look at the Mayo Clinic’s information about this at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456. There’s far too much to explore here, but I do urge you to remember you have CKD, so although it is an inflammatory disease, you need to be mindful of your renal diet should you decide to adopt the DASH diet.food is medicine

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

How Sweet It Was

I’ve had an interesting turn around in my health this last week of National Kidney Month. You did know it’s still National Kidney Month, right?  National Kidney MonthYou did go get yourself tested for Chronic Kidney Disease, didn’t you? Hurry up! There’re only four more days left to National Kidney Month. You know I’m joking about this month being the time to get yourself tested, but I’m serious (unfortunately, sometimes dead serious) about getting yourself tested.

I know, I know, I’m preaching to the choir. But how many of you have told your friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers about just how simple – and important – these tests are. Let’s not let them become one of the 31 million with Chronic Kidney Disease or worse, one of those that don’t know they have it.

Excuse me while I step off my soap opera. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, the – ahem – interesting turn around in my health this month.

Okay, this is twofold. The first part is the weight. You think I’ve been having trouble keeping that in check since I started blogging four years ago, don’t you? I mean because I write about it so much. The truth is it’s been much, much longer than that.  Even way back in college when I was a size 7 for one day, I weighed more than ‘the charts’ said I should by 20 pounds or so. I looked good, I felt good, and my mom kept telling me I had ‘heavy bones,’ so I let it go.  Who knew any better back then?sorry face

What’s so bad about the extra weight you ask? You do know obesity is one of the causes of CKD, don’t you? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t. I didn’t. I just started noticing it showing up in the research in the last couple of years. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. It just means I never saw it if it was.

I mentioned weight in passing a few times in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. This is from my first nephrologist’s report:

“The report, of course, ended with a one – two punch: I would need to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day and possibly decrease food portions, so I could lose weight (all right already!  I got it!) for better blood pressure and renal function.”

What is itBetter blood pressure and renal function? That’s when my battle with the numbers became real. And that’s when weighing and measuring food according to the renal diet allotments worked for a while… until I thought I could eye measure. So I went back to weighing and measuring… and it worked…until bomb shell number two fell in my lap: pre-diabetes.

In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, The National Institutes of Health helped me explain why this combination of excess weight and pre-diabetes was a problem for CKD patients:

“High blood glucose and high blood pressure damage the kidneys’ filters. When the kidneys are damaged, proteins leak out of the kidneys into the urine. The urinary albumin test detects this loss of protein in the urine. Damaged kidneys do not do a good job of filtering out wastes and extra fluid. Wastes and fluid build up in your blood instead of leaving the body in urine.”DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Let’s backtrack just a bit here. What does high blood glucose have to do with this? Well, that’s what tested to measure your A1C, which determines whether or not you have diabetes… or even pre-diabetes.

Back to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 this time, in which I decry my A1C woes:

“This time I went to WebMD for a simple explanation.  In addition to learning that pre diabetes means your glucose, while not diabetic, is higher than normal, I found this interesting statement.

Part 2When glucose builds up in the blood, it can damage the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, heart, eyes, and nervous system.

What I learned from my primary care physician on my last visit is that the A1C is not the only measure of diabetes. Although my blood glucose readings are still in the pre-diabetes range according to the A1C, my daily readings have sometimes gone over the 126 that’s considered diabetes. My head is spinning here. No one ever mentioned that magic number to me before.

I decided to conduct a little experiment last night. We know that high blood glucose is the result of sugar, but did you know that most carbohydrates turn into sugar? Last night I ate a chocolate bar and devoured at least half a dozen Saltines. This morning, when I pricked my finger and tested the blood, the reading was 129. Damn! Someone had to be the guinea pig and I volunteered myself… but all I’d proven was that sugar and carbs raise your blood sugar pretty quickly.

Now here’s the kicker. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2015 which is presently available digitally and should be out in print later this week:

“The Brits do a masterful job of explaining this effectively.  The following is from Patient.SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

‘A raised blood sugar (glucose) level that occurs in people with diabetes can cause a rise in the level of some chemicals within the kidney. These chemicals tend to make the glomeruli (Me here inserting my two cents: what filters the blood in your kidneys) more ‘leaky’ which then allows albumin to leak into the urine. In addition, the raised blood glucose level may cause some proteins in the glomeruli to link together. These ‘cross-linked’ proteins can trigger a localised scarring process. This scarring process in the glomeruli is called glomerulosclerosis. It usually takes several years for glomerulosclerosis to develop and it only happens in some people with diabetes.’”

My nephrologist told me to cut out sugar and carbs to lose weight. I’d already cut out sugar, so I cut out (or at least drastically down on) carbs. The black breadresult: a very slow weight loss. Of course, this is new to me so I don’t know if that two pound weight loss in a month will continue every month, but I’m willing to give it a try. Say, that’ll have a possible effect on eliminating the diabetes, too!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s National Kidney Month

March is National Kidney Month.  In the last few years, I’ve offered a new Chronic Kidney Disease book for sale during this month, but free on IMG_1398World Kidney Day. This year that’s March 10th.  The third Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, this year’s offering, has been retitled SlowItDownCKD – 2015. If my CKD writing has a ‘brand name,’ that’s it. Same writer, same type of blogs; just a new title for the series.  Check both Amazon.com on March 10th for your free digital copy.

There’s a reason there’s such attention being paid to our kidneys.  Last year’s National Kidney Month ‘Dear Abby column’ explains.

“DEAR ABBY: Hypertension runs in my family, but as a pretty healthy 49-year-old, I didn’t think much about it. I never realized that my pounding headaches were a direct result of high blood pressure. To make matters worse, the same high blood pressure that was causing my head to throb was also destroying my kidneys.

I wish I had known about my high blood pressure sooner and taken it seriously. When I finally learned about my kidney damage, it was too late to save them.nephrons

More than 73 million people are at risk for developing kidney disease, and I sincerely want to help them avoid this fate. My battle with kidney disease has turned me into an advocate for patients and those who are at risk. In honor of National Kidney Month in March and World Kidney Day on March 12, (Me: That was the date last year.) Will you please help me spread the word? — Lance Taylor in Minnesota

DEAR LANCE: I’m pleased to help you in this worthwhile effort. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 1 in 3 American adults is at risk for kidney disease. Major risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of kidney failure and being age 60 or older. Additional risk factors include kidney stones, smoking, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Kidney disease often goes undetected because it lacks physical symptoms until the very late stages. By then the organs have already failed. But early detection, healthy lifestyle changes and proper treatment can slow the progress of kidney disease. Those at risk should have simple blood and urine tests to check if their kidneys are working properly.

Readers, if you are at risk, during your next physical examination, ask your health care practitioner to check your kidneys. To learn more about prevention, visit kidney.org. You will also find information about free KEEP Healthy kidney screenings in your area.”

NKF-logo_Hori_OBI’ve written about the more than 50 local offices nationwide that help the NKF provide early-detection screenings and provide other vital patient and community services. I went to the website, clicked on ‘Keep Healthy Event in your area,” and up popped the locations of this particular event.

Several years ago, my daughter Nima asked if could guest blog during National Kidney Month from the perspective of someone who loves a person with CKD. These are some of the highlights of that blog.

“I have to admit when my mother first told me she had CKD I freaked out ever so slightly. My knowledge of CKD was minimal, if that, and it took more than a few times of Ma telling me that CKD was in fact manageable and not a death sentence to calm down…..

One thing I had to get used to was reminding myself to mention at doctor visits that a parent has CKD, and to please take blood work to keep an eye on my own GFR levels. Every now and then I’d also get a helpful reminder from Ma right before a doctor visit.

I … have another resource that not everyone else has: I have a mother who is also writing a very detailed book (Working on the 4th one now.) about her experiences with discovering she had CKD. Getting a chance to read the manuscript of her upcoming book was probably where I got the meat and potatoes of my CKD education. (Nima is the professional Reader for all the CKD books I write.)nima kidney

For those out there that have a loved one that was recently diagnosed with CKD ….don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you can do to help and what you should know about how CKD affects your family member or loved one. I was always worried about tiring my mother out until she finally explained to me that as long as she gets a chance to lay down/nap before we go out, she’s usually fine.”

But it’s not just getting tired; the following appeared on Yahoo’s PRWEB on Monday, March 14, 2011. I took the online test mentioned in the article (which is still there and highly recommended) and, sure enough, I need to see an audiologist. Consider taking the online test yourself after you read this little known information about CKD patients.

“People with Chronic Kidney Disease Should Have Their Hearing Checked:

March is National Kidney Month

 People with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) should take the Across America Hearing Check Challenge—a free, quick, and confidential online hearinghearing test at http://www.hearingcheck.org. The non-profit Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is offering the test as part of its effort to raise awareness of the link between Chronic Kidney Disease and hearing loss. March is National Kidney Month. BHI’s online test will help people determine if they need a comprehensive hearing check by a hearing professional.”

Every part of you is affected by your Chronic Kidney Disease. That means that everyone in your life is affected by it, too. Bear knows I’ve got to exercise each day no matter what we have planned. My friends and family know that inviting us for dinner means I may not be able to eat what they’ve cooked, even if it’s ‘healthy.’ Think about that a bit and you’ll realize CKD is serious.What is it

Until next week,

Keep living your life.

Blood and Thunder, Without the Thunder

I’ve been thinking a lot about blood lately and realize it’s time for a refresher about blood and CKD. It’s been doctor-visits-week for me and each one of them wanted to talk about blood test numbers… because I have Chronic Kidney Disease and my numbers are the worst they’ve been in seven years.Blood Oxygen Cycle Picture 400dpi jpg

This made me realize how very little I remember when it comes to how CKD affects your blood.  Soooo, I’m going right back to the very beginning. According to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-communication-programs/nkdep/a-z/kidney-disease-mean-for-me/Pages/default.aspx, this is how:

“CKD means that your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood like they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in your body. It can also cause other problems that can harm your health.”

By the way, this is a reader friendly page with visuals that the organization freely shares. You’ve seen them in my books and blogs. There is no medicalese here, nor is there any paternalism.  I like their style.

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/aboutckd explains in more detail.

“If kidney disease gets worse, wastes can build to high levels in your blood and make you feel sick. You may develop complications like high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count), weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. Also, kidney disease increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease. These problems may happen slowly over a long period of time.”

Maybe seven years is that ‘long period of time’, not that I have heart or blood vessel disease that I know of. But I do have high blood pressure which may have contributed to the development of the CKD. Circular, isn’t it? High blood pressure may cause CKD, but CKD may also cause high blood pressure.  Or is it possible that the two together can cause ever spiraling high blood pressure and worsening CKD?

Book CoverI’m going to go back to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease here for some basic definitions that may be helpful in understanding today’s blog.

Albumin:   Water soluble protein in the blood.

Chronic Kidney Disease:  Damage to the kidneys for more than three months, which cannot be reversed but may be slowed.

Hypertension: A possible cause of CKD, 140/90 mm Hg is currently considered hypertension, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, too. (New guidelines say these numbers are for CKD patients.)

Nephrons: The part of the kidney that actually purifies and filters the blood.

Let’s take a detour to see how sodium can affect high blood pressure which can affect so many other conditions.  This is a quote from Healthline.com at http://www.healthline.com/health/fast-food-effects-on-body which appeared The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2.

“Too much sodium helps to retain water, so it can cause general bloating and puffiness. Sodium can contribute to high blood pressure {Which, as we know, is the second leading cause of CKD} or enlarged heart muscle. If you have congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or KIDNEY DISEASE {My bolding and capitalization in this paragraph.}, too much salt can contribute to a dangerous build-up of fluid. Excess sodium may also increase risk for kidney stones, KIDNEY DISEASE, and stomach cancer.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure are among the top risk factors for heart disease and stroke.”Part 2

Oh my! Sodium, high blood pressure, enlarged heart muscle, stroke, heart disease, dangerous fluid build-up. They all can be inter-related. And that’s the problem with CKD:  your blood is not being filtered as it should be. There’s waste buildup in your blood now.

It’s that same not well filtered blood that flows through your body possibly causing hearing problems, as was discussed in a previous blog.  It’s that same not well filtered blood that flows through your body possibly causing your high blood pressure. It’s that same not well filtered blood that flows through your body possibly causing “swelling in your anklesvomitingweakness, poor sleep, and shortness of breath.” (Thank you WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-kidney-disease-basic-information for that last quote.)

I’m sorry to say this all makes sense.  All these conditions are inter-related and they may be caused by CKD, or high blood pressure which causes CKD, or both.

blood pressure 300dpi jpg

I see something I’ve ignored here. I have high blood pressure and I have CKD… and a lot of microalbumin in my urine.  This is new, and it’s a bit scary. Oh, all right, a lot scary.  I write about it so I have to research it and therefore, allay my fear by learning about it.

What did I learn about microalbumin, you ask? The MayoClinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/microalbumin/basics/definition/prc-20012767 says it in the simplest manner.

“A urine microalbumin test is a test to detect very small levels of a blood protein (albumin) in your urine. A microalbumin test is used to detect early signs of kidney damage in people who have a risk of kidney disease.Unhealthy%20Kidney

Healthy kidneys filter waste from your blood and keep the healthy components, such as proteins like albumin. Kidney damage can cause proteins to leak through your kidneys and leave your body in your urine. Albumin (al-BYOO-min) is one of the first proteins to leak when kidneys become damaged.”

At first, I laughed it off; I already know I have CKD. Until I saw the results for this test, but I’ve requested what we used to call a do-over when we were kids and my doctor saw the value in that.

Ready for some good news?

Both The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 have indexes now. I promised them before Christmas and Kwanzaa and I delivered. Sort of, that is.  Amazon came through right away; B&N.com will take another five weeks or so.Digital Cover Part 1

Happy, happy holidays to all of you.  I’ll see you once more before 2016. Talk about time flying!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Now What? Oh, the Pressure.

I had fully expected to be publishing a guest blog by a personal chef today.  All she needed was a copy of the renal diet I followed.  Well, that was Thanksgivingwhat we had talked about. But, as happens sometimes, that was simply not meant to be. Hmmmm, could this be the universe offering me another indication that I was correct in thinking I needed to stay away from writing about recipes on the blog?

So there I was casting around for a topic that I wanted to know more about and you’d enjoy reading about. Of course, I’d already completed my daily perusal Twitter for any articles about anything related to Chronic Kidney Disease.

Bingo!  This is what I found on Twitter about something I’d never really understood:  ‘Blood Pressure, the Top and Bottom Numbers ‘(and I’ll add here:  the risk of disease). The URL for this is http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/ask-well-blood-pressure-the-top-and-bottom-numbers/?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nythealth&smtyp=cur

“Both elevated systolic blood pressure (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number), together or alone, increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. The systolic reading indicates the pressure in the arteries produced when the heart beats; the diastolic is the arterial pressure between beats, when the heart is at rest. Readings below 120/80 are considered healthy.

Though high systolic and diastolic readings are both associated with increased risk, they may present different risks for different diseases. In 2014, researchers published a study of more than 1.25 million people 30 and older who were initially free of cardiovascular disease. They recorded their blood pressures, and followed them for an average of 5.2 years, during which 83,098 developed cardiovascular disease.

blood pressure 300dpi jpgOver all, those with a reading above 140/90 had a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than those with lower blood pressure — an unsurprising finding.

But the researchers also found that the risk of some diseases could be predicted by a high systolic reading, and others by a high diastolic reading. For example, the risk for heart attack is more strongly associated with an elevated systolic pressure. But the risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm, a swelling or rupture in the large artery that goes from the heart to the chest and abdomen, is higher when the diastolic pressure is elevated.

‘It’s reasonable to say that the systolic effect over all is slightly stronger than the diastolic,’ said the senior author of the study, Dr. Harry Hemingway, a professor of clinical epidemiology at University College London and director of the Farr Institute.

‘But if you have isolated diastolic hypertension,’ he added, ‘you still have hypertension, and you should take measures to lower it.’”

This makes sense, but it certainly got me to wondering. I wanted to know which of these numbers was more important to your health. Here’s what The American Heart Association at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Low-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301785_Article.jsp had to say about that.

“Typically more attention is given to the top number (the systolic blood pressure) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over bp cuff50 years old. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term build-up of plaque, and increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.”

Wait a minute. Is this contradictory? I get it that you need to pay extra attention to the systolic number if you’re over 50, but this statement seems to be saying that your blood pressure is going to rise anyway because you’re over 50.

I found this age appropriate blood pressure reading chart at Disabled World (http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/bloodpressurechart.shtml)

Age

Systolic BP Diastolic BP
3-6 116 76
7-10 122 78
11-13 126 82
14-16 136 86
17-19 120 85
20-24 120 79
25-29 121 80
30-34 122 81
35-39 123 82
40-44 125 83
45-49 127 84
50-54 129 85
55-59 131 86
60+ 134 87

Ah, so your numbers will rise as you age, but not to any danger level.  Hmmmm, I’m usually in the 60+ range and hadn’t realized that was normal. Good thing I hadn’t spent any time worrying about those readings.

Well, what about the new(ish) guidelines for a healthy blood pressure?  How does that fit in here?

“Adults aged 60 or older should only take blood pressure medication if their blood pressure exceeds 150/90, which sets a higher bar for treatment than the current guideline of 140/90, according to the report, published online Dec. 18 (2013) in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

stages of CKDThe expert panel that crafted the guidelines also recommends that diabetes and kidney patients younger than 60 be treated at the same point as everyone else that age, when their blood pressure exceeds 140/90. Until now, people with those chronic conditions have been prescribed medication when their blood pressure reading topped 130/80.”

The above is from WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/news/20131218/new-blood-pressure-guidelines-raise-the-bar-for-taking-medications.

One note of warning here: I tested at the usual levels for someone my age when I was in my 50s, so I stopped the Hbp medication.  Yes, there was a six month honeymoon period of in sync readings. But then, they went up and up.  It was the medication that was keeping me in the normal range.

I was delighted to give you and me the Chanukah present of an index for The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1. This new edition is now on sale at Amazon.com and should be on B&N.com in between five to seven weeks.  If you’ve already bought a copy of the book and would like an index, email me at SlowItDownCKD@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to send it to you.

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Now for an early Christmas/Kwanzaa present for all of us… The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 is now indexed and the new edition should be on sale at Amazon by the end of next week. B&N.com will take an additional six to eight weeks.  The offer to email you an index if you have an older edition of the book stands for Part 2 also.

It feels like What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease is being left out so look for a contest for that book around New Year’s.What is it

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Are you kidding????? Again??????

MenorahGuess what I have.  No, it’s not a Chanukah gift from Bear (although I’ve already gotten one of those). Hang on, I’ll give you a hint: I got it even though I took my annual flu shot.

Yep, this is yet another year I’ve come down with the flu despite having been vaccinated.  I realize that the vaccine only covers the anticipated strains of the flu for a particular season, but how is it I manage to get that strain… the unanticipated one… so often?

This week is the beginning of Chanukah. For those of you who celebrate, I wish you the joyous glow of the season all year round. But wait, it’s also National Influenza Vaccination Week.

According to the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2015-2016.htm,the shot

“National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is a national observance that was established to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination…. The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.”

We’re deep into it now. Well, then, why do I need to keep taking this vaccine that seems to be the wrong one for me each year?

DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/treatment-overview/immunizations–which-shots-you-need-and-why/e/4837 tells us,

“Immunizations may prevent people from contracting other diseases, infections and viruses. The immune system of a person with chronic kidney disease (CKD) becomes weakened, making it difficult to fight off many diseases and infections. Patients with CKD may become more susceptible to illness and even death if they do not receive regular immunization treatment. Getting the proper immunizations is an essential part of a person’s kidney care.”

This tidbit from http://www.esrdnetwork6.org/utils/pdf/immunizations.pdf, which is the website of the Southeastern Kidney Council, Inc. was even more direct.

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among patients with CKD
  •  Infectious diseases are the second most common cause of death among cause of death among patients with CKD

fit the fluIt’s here now. So what do I do about it? I was truly surprised at the OTC (over the counter) medications my former nephrologist recommended to me.  Tylenol Cold?  A steady regime for four days?  This for a CKD patient who has taken ten Tylenol in the last eight years?  But that’s what the man said.

Dylsem Cough Suppression was another OTC he recommended.  (Not the one with the ‘d’ on the label; that could raise your blood pressure.) Then there was the Benedryl that came with a caution not to take it until I was going to sleep. It would knock me out. Oh, and the Mucinex.

The one recommendation I got a kick from was hot tea with lemon and honey (I actually asked him if he knew my mother, but I don’t think he heard me.) laced with whiskey. This for someone who doesn’t drink?

It occurred to me (I do forget this and need to remind myself repeatedly) that when the media refers to the elderly in their public service announcements about the flu, they mean people over 65.  That means me.  I had not been paying attention to any health warnings for the elderly because they didn’t apply to me, or so I thought.  Hah!  Reality smacks me in the face again.

Let’s say you’re one of the lucky ones who has not yet gotten the flu and want to keep it that way. According to Healthfinder.gov, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, you can protect yourself by doing the following, in addition – of course – to being vaccinated:the flu ends with you

  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.
  • Try not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze

Note: There is a technical error on their page right now, so you won’t be able to click through.

Knowing me, you’ve probably figured out I just couldn’t watch movies and read while I was sick. Nope, I needed to work. So I did. The print version of The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 now has an index. This new, improved version (Sorry, no crackerjack prize in the box. Uhhhh, you won’t get that joke unless you’re a bit older.) should be available on both Amazon.com and www.BarnesandNoble.com this week.

That is in plenty of time for Chanukah. Remember, there are eight days that the holiday is celebrated. And I’m working on the index for print version of The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, so it will be available before Christmas.

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I like giving you gifts. If you already bought the print copy without the index, email me at SlowItDownCKD@gmail.com and I’ll be very happy to send you the index.

And let’s not forget about What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. Consider that an easy introduction for the newly diagnosed and their friends and family.

Book CoverI think I feel another The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease book coming on. Eeeek! Let’s wait until after the New Year to deal with a title for that one.

I wanted to remind you to use the search function if you have the digital version of any of the books. If you need a little reminder or tutorial as to how to use that, email me. I’ll be glad to help.

This year is flying by. The months flew by. Even today flew by.  Is it that I’m older and everything takes longer?  Or is it that I’ve learned to make the most of the hours in the day…month…years. Whatever it is, thank you for letting me share some of your time each Monday.

Until next week,

Keep living your life.

Well, What About Mexico?

Last week, I was telling you about Chronic Kidney Disease in the ports of call on our delayed (but finally arrived) honeymoon, which turned out to be a family honeymoon. But then, I ran out of room to talk about Mexico and promised to do so next week. So, as in the punchline of an off color joke my dad used to tell, “Here t’is.”cozumel

Unless you’re a scuba diver like my step-daughter and her sweetheart or a partying young’un, you may have not been to Cozumel. It’s a small part of the country on the East Coast and – again – we were warned not to get off the bus unless we were told to. It’s also where we got to see some of the Mayan ruins and learn about the culture, as well as take a side trip to a cacao factory.  That smelled so good! The rest for us was some really beautiful scenery from the bus windows and an overwhelming shopping area at port.

I‘ve been to San Miguel de Allende, in Guanajuato State, for a writers’ conference and met both American and Canadian ex-patriates there as well as those that winter in the relative warmth there.  No one said it’s not safe. No one said stay on the bus or within the compound…and I got to meet the natives, too. What a lovely, warm people.

I’ve been to Ensenada decades ago and marveled at how uncommercialized it was.  Of course, I don’t know if it’s still like that. I only have my memories there. I also vague memories of visiting different areas in Mexico long ago, but vague is the operant word here.stages of CKD

Never once did I think about Chronic Kidney Disease treatment while I was there until this last time. Heck, I didn’t even know what CKD was much less that it could be treated.

So, what about Mexico? It would make sense to deal with the most shocking news first.  This is from National Public Radio in April of last year.  You can read more about the various theories as to what caused the vast number of deaths at http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/04/30/306907097/mysterious-kidney-disease-slays-farmworkers-in-central-america

nprThis form of kidney failure, known as insuficiencia renal cronica in Spanish (or chronic kidney disease of unknown origin in English), is now found from southern Mexico to Panama, Turcios-Ruiz says. But it occurs only along the Pacific coast.

The disease is killing relatively young men, sometimes while they’re still in their early 20s. Researchers at Boston University have attributed about 20,000 deaths to this form of kidney failure over the past two decades in Central America.

(More recent reports have suggested it was severe dehydration that caused CKD in these young men.)

This is from a 2010 report published in the National Institutes of Health PubMed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20186176

In KEEP México City, CKD prevalence was higher than the overall prevalence among participants with diabetes (38%) or diabetes and hypertension (42%). Most KEEP México participants were unaware of the CKD diagnosis, despite that 71% in KEEP México City had seen a doctor in the previous year. CKD is highly prevalent, underdiagnosed, and underrecognized among high-risk individuals in México. KEEP is an effective screening program that can successfully be adapted for use in México.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, KEEP is The National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Early Evaluation Program.K.E.E.P.

As you can probably tell, current information is not that readily available. But I didn’t give up.

I found an abstract at ResearchGate that demonstrated that the homeless in Jalisco State (on the Western Coast and the home of many Mexican traditions) had a higher incidence than the poor for undiagnosed hypertension and diabetes in 2007. You can look at the exact numbers in this small study at http://www.researchgate.net/publication/260208642_Chronic_kidney_disease_in_homeless_persons_in_Mexico

Finally, something more recent! Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research offered this information in their March 6, 2015 online issue.

BraziiIn Mexico, CKD prevalence among the poor is two-to three-fold higher than the general population, and the etiology is unknown in 30% of ESRD patients ….In Mexico, the fragmentation of the health care system has resulted in unequal access to RRT. In the state of Jalisco, the acceptance and prevalence rates in the more economically advantaged insured population were higher (327 per million population [pmp] and 939 pmp, respectively) than for patients without medical insurance (99 pmp and 166 pmp, respectively). The transplant rate also was dramatically different, at 72 pmp for those with health insurance and 7.5 pmp for those without it.

You may need some help understanding this, especially if you go to the source at http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0100-879X2015000500377&script=sci_arttext, so here it is. ESRD means End Stage Renal Disease, the point at which your body is no longer serviced by your kidneys and you need dialysis or a transplant. RRT is renal replacement therapy or, as we know it, dialysis or transplant.

And lastly from the Clinical Kidney Journal from January 20th of this year at http://ckj.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/11/25/ckj.sfu124.full

In Mexico, the mortality on peritoneal dialysis is 3-fold higher among the uninsured population compared with Mexican patients receiving treatment in the USA, and the survival rate is significantly lower than the insured Mexican population….

Did you notice how often poverty and insurance were mentioned in the article (if you went to the websites)? I don’t know enough to make any conclusions, but it just might be that lack of money is at the root of such poor outcomes.

IMG_1398Meanwhile, between our honeymoon and a little jaunt to Las Vegas to meet cousins from New Hampshire when they come out to visit their mom who lives in Vegas, I am proud to say I am single handedly indexing The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 and 2… and enjoying it! Expect an announcement when the indexes are ready.

But, hey, why wait for announcements?  Starting this afternoon, there will be a giveaway for What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.  Poor baby keeps getting ignored while I work on its younger twin siblings.

I’d better get back to those indexes.

Until next week,Book Cover

Keep living your life!

They’re Not Two Separate Things

I know someone who is mentally ill.  You do, too, although you may not be aware of it. PTSD, bipolar, personality disorder, poor impulse control, schizophrenia, braindepression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsion, even eating disorders. I could go on and on with diagnoses we know nothing about when we meet the person. (Well, maybe we would with an eating disorder.) And why should we?

With medication, this person can function in the world… and function well. For those of you who are successfully treating your psychiatric illness holistically, whatever it is you are taking or doing that works for you will be included in the category of medication for the purposes of this blog.

But what if the person is not taking the medication necessary? What if they’re not and they have CKD? What if they are and have CKD? How does that affect their kidneys?

I came across a 2002 grant proposal on the National Institutes of Health site at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-DK-02-009.html which made clear that there is a correlation.

“There is substantial evidence that severe chronic illness may be associated with and exacerbated by co-existent mental disorders such as depression, anxiety NIHdisorders, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.  Nonetheless, few studies have addressed the natural history and consequences of co-existent mental disorders on chronic diseases of interest to the NIDDK, such as diabetes mellitus, chronic renal disease and obesity and eating disorders.”

The person I know has two parents with CKD. That means he has to be extra vigilant about preventing CKD. But can he with the impulsive, irrational thinking he occasionally experiences?

One of the many complications of Chronic Kidney Disease according to The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-disease/basics/complications/con-20026778 is

“Damage to your central nervous system, which can cause difficulty concentrating, personality changes or seizures”

Difficulty concentrating.  Personality changes. Just as in mental illness.

Let me talk about that term a bit. By mental illness, I mean a psychiatric condition rather than a physical one, but one that requires daily treatment, just as diabetes or CKD does. You watch your diet, don’t you? And try to stay away from stress? There’s another kind of daily attention psychiatric patients need to adhere to.

And here’s where it gets muddled. Just as CKD, a physical condition, can cause mental problems, a psychiatric condition can cause physical conditions.  The two are wrapped up in each other. You can’t divorce the physical from the mental or vice-versa. You are one person with all these interrelated parts.

Mental illness is far more prevalent than you think… and that’s with its being ‘out of the closet,’ so to speak, in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control’s Fact Sheet about mental health surveillance at http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealthsurveillance/fact_sheet.html  contains the following statement.CDC

“According to the World Health Organization, mental illness results in more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. Other published studies report that about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.”

Let me make it worse.  This was in 2002, 13 years ago.

In 2012, the CDC had this to say about mental illness and chronic disease:

“One common finding is that people who suffer from a chronic disease are more likely to also suffer from depression. Scientists have yet to determine if having a chronic disease increases the prevalence of depression or depression increases the risk of obtaining a chronic disease.”

This is from a study about chronic disease and mental health in the workplace. You can read more about that at http://www.cdc.gov/nationalhealthyworksite/docs/Issue-Brief-No-2-Mental-Health-and-Chronic-Disease.pdf

I know little about medications for mental illness except for those prescribed for my friend.  As an example of how drugs for psychiatric conditions may or may not interact with your physical ailments, let’s talk a bit about his drugs.

zyprexaWhen my bipolar friend has a manic episode, an anti-psychotic – Zyprexa (generic name Olanzapine) – is prescribed. WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-1699/zyprexa-oral/details# tells us

“This medication can help to decrease hallucinations and help you to think more clearly and positively about yourself, feel less agitated, and take a more active part in everyday life.”

Okay, sometimes my friend needs that, but there are also things he doesn’t need.

glucose“This drug may infrequently make your blood sugar level rise, which can cause or worsen diabetes. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms of high blood sugar, such as increased thirst and urination. If you already have diabetes, be sure to check your blood sugars regularly. Your doctor may need to adjust your diabetes medication, exercise program, or diet.

This drug may also cause significant weight gain and a rise in your blood cholesterol (or triglyceride) levels…. These effects, along with diabetes, may increase your risk for developing heart disease. “

Not so great for someone that has two parents with CKD, one with CKD caused by diabetes. As for the cholesterol or triglyceride levels,  we could be getting pretty close to heart disease here, as mentioned above. Nothing about the kidneys, yet diabetes is the leading cause of CKD.

What else was he recently prescribed? Oh, yes, lithium.  He’s been taking that off and on since he was 14 and first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Drugs.com at http://www.drugs.com/sfx/lithium-side-effects.html made me weep – not that this was going to help anything. I keep reminding myself that this is not usual when taking the drug, but my mind keeps placing the image of his two CKD parents before me.

“Moderate reversible increases in blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine as well as proteinuria have been observed in patients with lithium toxicity. Rarely the decreases in glomerular filtration have been persistent. A variety of renal effects have been reported and include glomerular sclerosis, interstitial fibrosis, chronic interstitial nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, renal tubular acidosis and tubular atrophy.”Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpg

Sometimes you need to take a risk to save your life. I’m sure that’s what my friend’s doctors are doing here. I’ve known him all his life. I hope they’re doing the right thing.

On a more positive note, Amazon tells me all three books are now available in the Japanese market as well as being available in Europe and other areas.  Nothing like getting the word about CKD Awareness out to the entire world.IMG_1398What is it

Today is Labor Day. Thank you to all those union organizers that were jailed repeatedly- like Benjamin Binenbaum, my maternal grandfather – for the advantages they won for us.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!labor day

Once Upon a Time, Not So Long Ago…

I always think of myself as a lucky mother… which makes me laugh out loud since – as a retired New York City high school and college teacher – I’m used to hearing that as half a word. But I do refer to being a parent.McKee

Here’s an example of why: I have everything I want, so when my first born asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day this year I told her I wanted research (She’s an excellent researcher.) into the history of Chronic Kidney Disease. Guess what I got.

I am writing a novel that deals with time travel back to 1885 and needed this information to continue. I knew Chronic Kidney Disease was a relatively new field of medicine, but hadn’t expected it to be this new.

My daughter was astonished at how little she could get, but then again, there isn’t much history is there? So get ready for a (short) history lesson that combines my daughter’s research and mine.

Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpgIn the 1700’s kidney diseases weren’t recognized for what they were and not often diagnosed, although people were dying of urea poisoning or dropsy.  Urea poisoning is what we now refer to as urea in the blood. Is this starting to sound familiar?

As for dropsy, MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=13311 defines this as

An old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water….The Middle English dropesie came through the Old French hydropsie from the Greek hydrops which in turn came from the Greek hydor meaning water.

Today we call it edema and usually give the cause of it. For instance, if you have CKD, during your office visit the nephrologist will press on the skin of your leg to see if you have edema caused by CKD.

There’s a theory that Mozart may have died of CKD caused by recurrent urinary tract infections. This has been tossed around in fiction about Mozart’s life (Have you read Mozart’s Wife by Juliet Waldron? It’s an excellent historical fiction.), but there seem to be some circumstances validating this. You can read more about this at http://ukrocharity.org/2012/08/diary-of-a-kidney-lover-did-mozart-die-of-kidney-disease/

brightLet’s move up to 1827 and meet Dr. Richard Bright who worked at Guy’s Hospital in London. You may know of him already as The Father of Nephrology, although he also researched diseases of other parts of the body such as the heart, liver, pancreas, and pulmonary system.  Bright’s Disease, now called glomerulonephritis, is defined by the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glomerulonephritis/basics/definition/con-20024691 as

inflammation of the tiny filters in your kidneys (glomeruli). Glomeruli remove excess fluid, electrolytes and waste from your bloodstream and pass them into your urine. Also called glomerular disease, glomerulonephritis can be acute — a sudden attack of inflammation — or chronic — coming on gradually.

Although this designation held for over a century, we now call it nephritis, which is an inflammation of the kidneys. And what is CKD if not an inflammatory disease?

Not quite 100 years later, it was discovered that not all proteinuria (protein in the urine or ‘protein spill’) was considered dangerous. This is from the History of Nephrology by Neil Turner at http://historyofnephrology.blogspot.com/2014/11/marathon-nephritis-and-postural.html

proteinProteinuria after exertion was first described in 1878. It was memorably characterised by Collier in 1907 in a systematic report on 156 Oxford rowers training for the ‘Torpids’.  57% of urine samples taken 1-1.5h after vigorous rowing contained protein.  Smaller studies in other populations of athletes gave similar results. He compared these results with the historically recorded lifespans of 294 participants in the University Boat Race – they were longer than average.  This made it seem unlikely that post-exertional proteinuria conveyed a bad long term prognosis. 

I wonder how frustrated Dr. Bright became when he first suspected that hypertension had a strong effect on the kidneys, but had no way to prove that theory since the first practical sphygmomanometer wasn’t yet available. It wasn’t brought to the U.S. until 1901, but was available earlier in Britain in an earlier form which was difficult to obtain, manipulate, and calibrate as you can see from the picture.Mahomeds Sphygmograph

With all our outcry about following a low sodium diet, it was a bit shocking to realize that when this was first suggested as a way to avoid edema in 1949, it was practically dismissed. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the importance of a low sodium diet in Chronic Kidney Disease was acknowledged.

We’ll end this extremely brief history of nephrology with the words of nephrologist Veeraish Chauhan from his “A Brief History of the Field of Nephrology” at http://kidneydisease.about.com/od/Kidney-Disease/fl/A-Brief-History-of-the-Field-of-Nephrology.htm in which he emphasizes how young the field of modern nephrology is.

 Dr. Smith was an American physician and physiologist who was almost single handedly responsible for our current understanding of how the kidneys work. He dominated the field of twentieth century Nephrology so much that it is called the “Smithian Era of Renal Physiology“. He wrote the veritable modern Bible of Nephrology titled, The Kidney: Structure and Function in Health and Disease. This was only in 1951.

51 years. That was only 64 years ago, ladies and gentlemen. That was during my lifetime. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if these discoveries had never been made… or if I would have a life at all.

Do you have any more tidbits about the history of nephrology to share with us? If so, just add a comment.

What is it

On the book front, I wonder how many of you are aware that you don’t need to buy my books to read them. Are you a member of Amazon Prime or is someone in your household? Then you can borrow the books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for free.  Do you have a favorite library? Then you can ask your librarian to order the book and once it arrives, read it for free. You can also borrow library books for free on your Kindle, but first you need to make certain your library has a copy. Then there’s BookLending.com. Enter the title and borrow it for free.  You can also lend it for free. I’m also looking into Lendleme.com, but haven’t explored it enough to recommend it yet.IMG_1398

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Stop Stressing!

sorry faceI am retired.  I get up when I want. I go to bed when I want. I stay in when I want. I go out when I want. I have no deadlines except those I impose on myself. But people I love do have stress in their lives: jobs, relationships, mental health…and I am stressed by their stress.

What, in heaven’s name, is this stress doing to my kidneys since I have Chronic Kidney Disease?  It is further reducing my already compromised immune system is what it’s doing.  Let me tell you why I don’t need that and neither do you.

Flashback to Alaska about a month ago. Bear was in the throes of cellulitis. It was about 60 degrees and raining lightly. We needed to return the knee scooter to the rental company before we left the state, which meant I stood outside in the rain for over 40 minutes waiting for them to show up.  They didn’t. I straightened that out and we ended up racing to the airport to be there two hours before our flight, as required. Then Bear felt ill, so we sat in the ice cold military waiting room for over 12 hours until our flight.  There was no sleep that night.  Are you starting to get the picture?IMG_1320

The result was a plain, old ordinary upper respiratory infection that took my already compromised immune system three weeks to heal from.

Let’s do the usual backtracking here and take a look at how Chronic Kidney Disease compromises your immune system in the first place. According to WebMD’s explanation of what stress can do to anyone, CKD or not, at http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/effects-of-stress-on-your-body,

Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress — a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headachesupset stomach, elevated blood pressurechest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.

Make no mistake. Stress can be a killer for those with CKD.  Did ‘elevated blood pressure’ from the explanation above jump out at you?  A large number of us were already taking blood pressure lowering medication before we developed CKD.  Another large number who were not had blood pressure lowering medication prescribed for them by their nephrologists.  Why?

blood pressure 300dpi jpgLet’s go back to basics here. In the glossary of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I defined hypertension (high blood pressure) as

A possible cause of CKD,… , a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, too.

Just below that definition is the one for hypertensive nephrosclerosis:

Kidney damage caused by HBP (high blood pressure).

As a reminder, nephron refers to the kidneys and sclerosis to hardening of the – in this case – organ.

Dirty words! So my already high blood pressure MAY have been part of the cause of my CKD which compromised my immune system and then stress further compromised it.  Oh my.

Wait a minute. Let me grab this thought. Got it! How does the immune system work anyway? The National Institutes of Health was helpful here.Book Cover

The immune system protects the body from possibly harmful substances by recognizing and responding to antigens. Antigens are substances (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Nonliving substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles (such as a splinter) can also be antigens. The immune system recognizes and destroys substances that contain antigens (Me here: the body does already contain antigens of its own.) ….The immune system includes certain types of white blood cells. It also includes chemicals and proteins in the blood, such as antibodies, complement proteins, and interferon. Some of these directly attack foreign substances in the body, and others work together to help the immune system cells.

There’s a great deal more of such information at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000821.htm

Keep in mind that our kidneys filter our blood.  If our kidneys are damaged, our blood filtration is not at 100%, including those ever important Blood Oxygen Cycle Picture 400dpi jpgwhite blood cells. Ever notice how high your white blood count is when you have an illness?  This is why. You might also look for your leukocyte esterase level on your blood test results since those indicate the presence of white blood cells.

This is so complicated, but then, isn’t everything?  Whatever happened to black and white answers, she whined winningly.

So we have already poorly filtered blood and further reduced blood flow (That’s what hypertension is.) caused by stress. Wonderful, just wonderful. Ugh! Obviously, this is something to be avoided, if possible.  But how?

As CKD patients, we can stop stressing ourselves about the following, those things that common – but misguided – knowledge tells us is our disease worsening when they actually may be anxiety produced:

  • Extra Urination Anxiety can actually cause more frequent urination. When you experience anxiety, the part of your brain that controls the withholding urination actually slows down, because anxiety requires resources to be sent to other parts of your brain. This can lead to concerns over your renal health, although generally nothing is wrong.
  • Lower Back Pain Lower back pain is also very common with anxiety. Lower back pain comes from severe stress and tension, and yet it’s bad backassociated with some conditions that affect the kidneys as well which can have many people worried about their kidney health.
  • Life Experiences Anyone that suffers from anxiety and has had a friend or family member diagnosed with a terrible kidney condition is at risk for developing anxiety over the idea of poor kidneys. Anxiety can turn life experiences into very real concerns, and so kidney health concerns are one of the issues that can come up when you see it in others.
  • Urine Color Urine color is another issue that can cause anxiety. Many people check their urine color for diseases habitually, and every once in a while the color of a person’s urine may be very different than what they expect. This can create concerns that the urine color changes are due to kidney problems.

Many thanks to Calm Clinic at http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/kidney-problems for these reassuring words.

IMG_1398

Here’s hoping you can find more ways to reduce any existing stress in your life.  Look hard, we all have stress of some kind of another.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Connection You Can Do Without

McKee You know how you run into people you used to know every once in a while. That’s exactly what happened for me… but we discovered we had chronic disease in common. That’s why this one’s for Jeanne, a former colleague who is highly involved in spreading awareness of Scleroderma, just as I am of Chronic Kidney Disease.  Just as we have a connection, so do Scleroderma and Chronic Kidney Disease. (Cool way to slide into today’s topic, isn’t it?)

According to the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scleroderma/basics/definition/CON-20021378, scleroderma is

a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body.

In some people, scleroderma affects only the skin. But in many people, scleroderma also harms structures beyond the skin — such as blood vessels, handsinternal organs and the digestive tract. Signs and symptoms vary, depending on which structures are affected.

Scleroderma affects women more often than men and most commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50. While there is no cure for scleroderma, a variety of treatments can ease symptoms and improve quality of life.

Did you catch “such as blood vessels” and “internal organs” in that definition? And that there’s no cure? Are you beginning to see the connection?

Book CoverOn page 129 of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I’ve defined an ACE inhibitor as “A blood pressure medication that lowers protein in the urine if you have CKD.”

So ACE inhibitors are helpful in CKD, but – as you’ll soon read – harmful in Scleroderma. We’ve probably all been in the position of having to choose the least harmful treatment, rather than the most helpful and here it is again.

The Scleroderma Care Foundation at http://www.sclerodermatt.org/articles/better-health/204 tells us:

Exposure to angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors prior to the onset of renal crisis in patients with Scleroderma increases the risk of death, according to 1-year findings from the prospective observational International Scleroderma Renal Crisis Survey.

I went to Scleroderma.Org for this chart to help us understand which type of Scleroderma affects the kidneys.types-scleroderma-chart

We can see that Systemic scleroderma is the one that we, as CKD patients, need to pay attention to.  The following is also from Scleroderma.Org.

Systemic scleroderma (systemic sclerosis) The changes occurring in systemic scleroderma may affect the connective tissue in many parts of the body. Systemic scleroderma can involve the skin, esophagus, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and bowels), lungs, kidneys, heart and other internal organs. It can also affect blood vessels, muscles and joints. The tissues of involved organs become hard and fibrous, causing them to function less efficiently. The term systemic sclerosis indicates that “sclerosis” (hardening) may occur in the internal systems of the body.

I’m sure you caught “kidneys” in that definition.

Well, what about symptoms?  No one seems to know what causes Scleroderma, but maybe there’s more information about the symptoms. WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/understanding-scleroderma-symptoms had this one covered.

  • Swelling, stiffness, or pain in the fingers, toes, hands, feet, or face
  • Puffy skin
  • Discolored skin
  • Fingers and toes that react strongly to cold — they may look white and hurt. This is called Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Red spots on the fingers, palms, face, lips, or tongue. These are called telangiectasias. They happen when tiny blood vessels are widened.
  • Ulcers or sores on fingertips, knuckles, or elbows
  • Fatigue or feeling tired
  • Shortness of breath, caused by heart or lung damage
  • Problems digesting food — for example, heartburn, trouble swallowing, or food moving slower than usual through your system

Some of the latter symptoms may be the same as those for CKD, but this does not automatically mean you have CKD…or Scleroderma for that chartmatter.  See your doctor to be tested for each if you have CKD and think you’re developing Scleroderma or vice-versa.

Now there’s another question.  What is the testing for Scleroderma? Our old friend Lab Tests Online at https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/scleroderma/start/3 offered a complex answer to this question.  Below are the usual tests, but there are groups of others to determine which organs are affected, the severity of the disease, the type of Scleroderma, etc.

A battery of tests is performed to detect the presence or absence of autoantibodies that are generally associated with the diagnosis of scleroderma. They include:

So now we know what Scleroderma is, how it can be determined if you have it, what type you have if you do, and how it may be connected to CKD. By the way, to date, there is no way of preventing this disease.

Now the biggie.  What can you do about it? Time to check with MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/scleroderma/page4.htm#what_is_the_treatment_for_scleroderma

Treatment of scleroderma is directed toward the individual features affecting different areas of the body.

Aggressive treatments of elevations in blood pressure have been extremely important in preventing kidney failure. Blood pressure medications, particularly the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor class of drugs, such as lisinopril, are frequently used.

scleroderma-systemic-sclerosis_3See what I mean about choosing the medication that prevents the most harm rather than one that does the most good?

While research is ongoing, there are support groups for Scleroderma patients just as there are for CKD patients, although I wasn’t able to find one for sufferers of both diseases. The Scleroderma Foundation at http://www.scleroderma.org/site/PageServer?pagename=chapter_locator has an interactive map with addresses of in person support groups. Online, there’s Dailystrenth.org at http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Scleroderma/support-group, as well as a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scleroderma-Support-Group/498039106944584. Of course there are others, but these might be the best places to start if you’re looking for support groups.

I am sitting here writing my blog in the midst of a post vacation cold that’s taking three weeks to run its course. Ah, the joys of having a compromised immune system (She wrote sarcastically.). After writing this blog, I’m feeling very lucky that this is all I’m dealing with as a result of my CKD.IMG_1398

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Going Mental

Ilana Contest Winner!  Congratulations to Ilana Lydia for winning the photo contest for the Weirdest Place to read one of my CKD books.  She took a little poetic license and had her cat read the digital version on her computer.  I never would have thought of that… or my Bear’s reading one of the books while welding or Abby’s reading one while walking the tightrope and twirling a hoola hoop.  (They were disqualified because they’re immediate family.)

Thanks for all the entries, you creative readers, you. Ilana, please contact me privately so I can send you a brand new, personally inscribed copy of The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1.  If any of you have a contest idea you’d like to have me run, just let me know.  This contest idea was from avid reader, Geo DeAngelo.  Thanks again, Geo.DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Aha, looks like there’s a free Path to Wellness health screening coming up. This one is in Mesa, Arizona, at Adelante Healthcare 1705 W. Main St. on the 20th from 8 to 1:30. That’s a Saturday. There are two requisites here: you must be over 18 and have a nuclear family member with diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease OR a history of diabetes or high blood pressure yourself.

Path to Wellness screenings include the screening itself, immediate blood and urine results, doctor consult, onsite health education, 6 week Healthy Living Workshops, and help finding a family doctor.  Just call the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona for an appointment at 602 840 1644 for English speakers or 602 845 7905 for those who would prefer Spanish.NKF-logo_Hori_OB

Have I mentioned enough times that this screening is free?  Early diagnose is important so you can slow down the progression of the disease. You can’t be treated for the disease if you don’t know you have it.  Now you’ve just lost the ‘I don’t have the money for that’ excuse.  Be good to yourself and get screened.

Now, about that blog title.  You know when you have a preconceived notion that you seem to make things come out that way?  Okay, we all go for periodic blood tests.  The procedure is called venipuncture which simply means puncturing the vein. Since I’m on a cholesterol medication, it’s once every three months for me.  I went for the blood draw on Friday.

There are two phlebotomists at the Lab Corp attached to my PCP’s practice.  One is so heavy handed that it hurts and I have discreetly requested that 1. She not draw my blood and 2. She be told why I made that request.  It turns out this was not news to her, yet she continues to work there. She was not the problem this time.Abby book

The other phlebotomist has the touch of a butterfly and a great deal of personality to boot.  I know if she draws my blood, it’s not going to hurt. My veins are also becoming ‘difficult’ after all these years of blood tests.  They roll, collapse, or seemingly disappear. I just realized these problems are all associated with elderly patients.  Hey, I’m not there yet! Truthfully, some of these problems may have to do with the placement and depth of the needle. If you’re interested, there’s a fairly easy to understand ARO Onsite Training and Consulting (for phlebotomists) site at blood drawhttp://arotraining.com/images/Documents/Venipuncture%20Module%206_Venipuncture%20Complications%20and%20Special%20Circumstances.pdf

Finally, we get to the mental part.  While I knew the preferred phlebotomist wasn’t going to make me hurt – other than the initial pinch – it did hurt. I just didn’t experience the sensation that way. I have a close to the surface vein in my upper left arm and, after palpating but not finding a really good vein in the crooks of either of my elbows or the back of my hands, she decided to use that one… with my blessing.  I’d been wondering why no one ever tried that vein before. Note the size of the bruise this resulted in:IMG_1220

It worked for 1 ½ of the 3 tubes that were needed, then it collapsed.  She knew I’d have a whopping bruise, but I still didn’t feel the pain I should have been feeling according to my past experience of venipuncture and hers.  Why?

Ah, the brain is a marvelous thing. According to About Health at http://pain.about.com/od/whatischronicpain/a/feeling_pain.htm

Special pain receptors called nociceptors activate whenever there has been an injury, or even a potential injury, such as breaking the skin or Bear and bookcausing a large indentation.

Venipuncture, although it is to help keep you healthy, is an injury to the skin and vein.  So have I somehow been manipulating my nociceptors? No, I don’t think so.

There are many sites on the internet that explain how you can use visualization, transference, mental imagery, meditation, and other such techniques to lessen chronic pain. That’s not what I was dealing with. I knew, absolutely knew, I wasn’t going to experience any pain. I usually do some deep breathing, do not look at the site being punctured (wrote a whole blog about that a few years ago), and cracked jokes with the young lady performing the procedure.

In other words, there was no anxiety, no fear, no foreboding, just a simple case of I-have-to-do-this-therefore-I-will-and- I-will-experience-the-pain-as-mildly-annoying. I know. I know. I wish I could do this at the dentist’s office, too.

brainI had expected to offer you loads of scientific information about this from alternative medicine sites, but they all seem to say the same thing I just did.  Over 40 years ago, I was involved with Seagull Mind Training. That was a company (now defunct) that claimed to teach you how to use more of your brain power. I say we are using more, all of us, with the quest into mind/body connection, alternative and complementary medicine, and an overall awareness of our general good health. The difference is that we now accept this as commonplace.

While this is not something I would try with major surgery, you might be surprised at how well it works during your next blood draw.

Poor books seem to get ignored until the very end of my posts lately.  I urge you to share, people, share. If you’ve bought the Kindle version, there is a share program available. You can also ask your library to order copies.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!Digital Cover Part 2 redone - CopyWhat is it

Renal Arterial Stenosis, Huh?

I recently attended a social function at which someone I respect tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Make sure you speak with our mutual friend before you leave.”  So I did … and was mystified when she conducted some small talk with me.  This is what he wanted me to hear?

Later I received a message from our mutual friend and all became clear.  She’d been diagnosed with renal arterial stenosis and her doctor wanted her to have surgery.  Could I help?  At that point, I couldn’t, but I could research for her and I did.

Then I got to thinking about how many of us with Chronic Kidney Disease don’t know what this is or what it might have to do with us, other than it starts with renal – which is from the Latin for kidneys. The Greek root is ‘neph’ as in nephrology.

I turned to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease {Page 129} for the definition of arteries.

Vessels that carry blood from the heart.

Blood Oxygen Cycle Picture 400dpi jpgSo, we’re looking at vessels attached to the kidneys that bring in blood from the heart.  And why do we need that I wondered?  Oh wait.  I remember: the kidneys filter this blood and then send it back to your heart via the veins.

That’s where stenosis comes in.  According to the medical dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/stenosis, this is

a constriction or narrowing of a duct or passage; a stricture.

That same dictionary gave us a precise definition of renal artery stenosis.

narrowing of one or both renal arteries, so that renal function is impaired,

resulting in renal hypertension and, if stenosis is bilateral, chronic renal failure

So what we’re looking at here is a narrowing of the artery that brings blood from the heart to the kidneys for cleaning by the nephrons.

Now hold on there.  Let’s not panic, folks.  This does not mean automatic chronic renal failure and dialysis or transplant.

Let’s take a look at what might cause renal artery stenosis or RAS. I went directly to a trusted site, U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services, National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), A service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/RenalArteryStenosis/#cause.

About 90 percent of RAS is caused by atherosclerosis—clogging, narrowing, and hardening of the renal arteries. In these cases, RAS develops when plaque—a sticky substance made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other material found in the blood—builds up on the inner wall of one or both renal arteries. Plaque buildup is what makes the artery wall hard and narrow.

Most other cases of RAS are caused by fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD)—the abnormal development or growth of cells on the renal artery walls—which can cause blood vessels to narrow. Rarely, RAS is caused by other conditions.

Our mutual friend had been making herself out to be a terrible person to herself, one who caused her own RAS.  Well, maybe she did… and maybe she didn’t. It could have been FMD or some other unknown condition.  If it wasn’t, I still can’t see her blaming herself if she didn’t know about preventing atherosclerosis.  The point is she does now and needs to deal with the RAS.

MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/renal_artery_stenosis/page2.htm#what_are_the_symptoms_of_renal_artery_stenosis tells us that symptoms aren’t that common.

In general, renal artery stenosis is not associated with any obvious or specific symptoms. Suspicious signs for renal artery stenosis include:

  • high blood pressure that responds poorly to treatment;
  • severe high blood pressure that develops prior to age 30 or greater than age 50;
  • an incidental finding (discovered through routine tests or tests performed for another condition) of one small kidney compared to a normal sized one on the other side.

Typically, unilateral (one-sided) renal artery stenosis may be related to high blood pressure whereas bilateral (two-sided) renal artery stenosis is more often related to diminished kidney function.

What about that surgery our mutual friend’s doctor wanted her to have? Is it really necessary?ras

Sometimes a regiment of several hypertension {High blood pressure} drugs, along with hyperlipidemia {High cholesterol} drugs, and perhaps aspirin can alleviate the problem. Then there’s angioplasty – a procedure in which a catheter is placed in the artery via a blood vessel, a balloon is then opened in the artery and stented to keep the renal artery open. Or, bypass surgery may be performed to avoid the blocked area of the renal artery.  Thank you to WebMD for this information which I paraphrased from http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/renal-artery-stenosis-symptoms-treatments?page=2.

My advice when surgery is suggested?  A second opinion.  Any doctor worth his salt will welcome this request and understand that it in no way casts aspersion on his/her value as a doctor. A second opinion from a nephrologist would be the way that I would go and I urged our mutual to seek one.

Here’s to our mutual friend and all of us who ever wondered what RAS is and what it has to do with CKD.

On another note entirely, here’s a bit of happiness I wanted to share with you.  These are reviews for What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease I hadn’t seen on Amazon.com… and all five stars!

One of the best on the subject not so much for the info but the way it was presented. Almost like a novel. Makes you forget your kidney is not behaving the way it should.

It is written for a patient like us, mean that the language it is simple and easy to understand, good sense of humor and a positive aptitude with this silent killer, another book that deserve a place on your personal library. Very informative , excellent book.

A book that is very helpful to CKD3 patients. It gives the facts and figures needed most to those with this condition!new blog shot

I’ve had this book in paperback for a while and when Amazon offered me the option to buy the digital version at a discounted price since I had purchased the paperback from them, I jumped at it. I’m a sucker for loaning out hard copy and this way if I find a fellow kidney disease sufferer, I can let them have my paperback and I will always have my digital backup for reference. This is a great book by a fellow kidney disease patient who also publishes a very good blog. There are so many details to track with this disease and she talks about the daily life of it. Very helpful and answers so many questions. She’s a born researcher, so all her information has backup links to let you know this is authentic medical advice to get some of those questions answered between doctor’s visits.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Way I See It

There I sat moping because my eyes are getting worse and I didn’t know why.  So I did what I do best (and what brings me right up again, believe it or not) and started researching.  And I found multiple answers!  That’s terrific because I’ve already drunk my two cups of coffee today, so I couldn’t turn to them for solace.

You’ve probably figured out the answers are mostly Chronic Kidney Disease related. This is not something I wrote about in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. When I researched for the book, macular degeneration never even peeked out at me. (How do you like that play on vision related words?  Macular – peeked?  No?  Oh well.)Book Cover

Anyway…. let’s do our usual back to the basics for a topic we haven’t visited in a while.  Macular degeneration is, “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 MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10027

I suppose the part about not causing total blindness should make me feel better, but I need more information first. The retina?  Anyone? No?

It’s, “… a multi-layered sensory tissue that lines the back of the eye. It contains millions of photoreceptors that capture light rays and convert them into electrical impulses. These impulses travel along the optic nerve to the brain where they are turned into images.There are two types of photoreceptors in the retina: rods and cones. The retina contains maculaapproximately 6 million cones. The cones are contained in the macula, the portion of the retina responsible for central vision. They are most densely packed within the fovea, the very center portion of the macula. Cones function best in bright light and allow us to appreciate color. There are approximately 125 million rods. They are spread throughout the peripheral retina and function best in dim lighting. The rods are responsible for peripheral and night vision.”

I had to dig deep for a thorough, yet easily understood definition. Thank you St. Luke’s Cataract and Laser Institute at http://www.stlukeseye.com/Anatomy/retina.html for helping out here.

Well, now you understand why I keep posting all those pictures containing glorious color.  That’s my way of saving up color for when I can’t see it anymore.  Although, it’s really the rods that are causing me most trouble right now.

Dim the lighting and I can’t tell what I’m looking at.  I don’t know where Bear is in a dim room unless he speaks and my poor black and white Bella!  She’s been walked into so often I don’t know why she doesn’t just run when she sees me coming.

However, it’s not as easy as just that.  There are two kinds of macular degeneration: wet and dry. I went back to our old pal Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wet-macular-degeneration/basics/definition/CON-20043518 for the definitions:

“Wet macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease that causes vision loss in the center of your field of vision. Wet macular degeneration is generally caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the region of the macula (MAK-u-luh). The macula is in the center of the retina (the layer of tissue on the inside back wall of your eyeball). Wetmd image macular degeneration is one of two types of age-related macular degeneration. The other type — dry macular degeneration — is more common and less severe. Wet macular degeneration almost always begins as dry macular degeneration. It’s not clear what causes wet macular degeneration.”

Wait a minute.  Did you catch that “age-related macular degeneration”?  That’s what I have and that’s where the Chronic Kidney Disease comes into our equation.

I went to The National Institutes of Health website at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2390960/ to find the conclusions from a Journal of American Society of Nephrology study about the relationship between macular degeneration and Chronic Kidney Disease:

“…persons with moderate chronic kidney disease were 3 times more likely to develop early age-related macular degeneration than persons with no/mild chronic kidney disease.”

Thank you very much, CKD, for another undesired gift.  To be honest, although this has not shown up anywhere else in my family history, I don’t know if I would have developed macular degeneration even if I didn’t have CKD.  Apparently, smoking is another risk factor and that is something I played around with for decades – never becoming a chain smoker, but smoking nervously and socially.  Hey, we didn’t really know what the consequences could be at that time.

WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/macular-degeneration/age-related-macular-degeneration-overview tells us the other risk factors:

“… high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and being light skinned, female, and having a light eye color are also risk factors for macular degeneration.”

racesUn-oh, I fit every one of these criterion (if light brown eyes are considered light eye color).  Sometimes I wish I had foresight instead of hindsight.  While I couldn’t have done anything about my race, sex, or eye color, there’s quite a bit I could have worked on as far as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and weight.

Because I am a Pollyanna and need to find hope everywhere, my hope here is that my experience can at least serve as an object lesson for our younger Chronic Kidney Disease sufferers.  Sort of a do-as-I-say, not do-as-I-do example, if you will.

Change of subject:  The digital version of the book continues to sell far better than print copies so I want to remind you of an Amazon.com offer.  If you – or anyone you know – order a print copy, you (or that person) can order the digital copy for $2.99 instead of the usual $9.99.  The program is called Kindle Matchbook. (http://www.amazon.com/What-Is-How-Did-Get/dp/1457502143/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_img_1)

I especially recommend this program to medical students since I have found textbook rental companies trying to rent my book for one semester for more than it costs to buy the book.  Ridiculous!   This program is also valuable because you can share your digital copy with others.

Our Yom Kippur was filled with family and happiness.  If you celebrate, I hope yours was too.  If Eid al-Fitr is what you celebrate as a Muslim, my hope is that breaking the 30 day dawn to dusk fast of Ramadan was a joyous occasion for you. For the Catholics, I hope your celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi was everything you’d hoped it would be.  All three were celebrated this past Saturday.  I’ll take that as an indication that there are more similarities rather than differences between people of different religions.  For everyone who didn’t celebrate a religious holiday this weekend, as always, I wish you health and happiness.

Until next week,

Keep living your life.

Oh, The Pressure!

We enjoyed a cool, slightly wet, getaway weekend and it was wonderful.  I’m a fan of historical sites and Bear is more than willing to join me in seeing them, so we went to Tumacacori, the Presidio in Tubac, and The Pimeria Alta Museum in Nogales.  I was taken with all of them, but saddened to hear of each of their financial plights. I know this is not the best economy, but this is history.

IMG_0811I was surprised to discover that The Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is manned (and womanned) by a staff of volunteers – except for their director, Shaw Kinsley, who is also the author of the well written Images of America: Tubac. The volunteers do an excellent job, as good as that done by the park rangers at Tumacacori.

That got me to thinking about the pressure they all must be under… which got me to thinking about pressure of all kinds and its effect on blood pressure.  Being on a mini-vacation gave me loads of time to think, but this time I decided to write about just that: blood pressure.

Not only have I written about blood pressure in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, but you’ll notice several blogs about it if you use the topic search on the right side of the blog page.Book Cover

So why write about the same topic again, you ask?  This time, I took a look at how to take your blood pressure and some of the machines on the market.

Have I ever told you that when I am at my sleep apnea doctor’s office, my blood pressure always starts at about 150/89?  That’s high and I tell them it’s not my usual reading. We’re way past the white coat syndrome (blood pressure rising simply because you’re in a doctor’s office) here, so they take it again on the other arm and it’s something about 110/72.  I like that, but it’s not my usual reading, either.  Back to the first arm: 130/79.  Bingo!

I asked my primary care physician why this happens and she asked me to describe the monitor they used.  As I did, she started nodding her head.  Apparently, this type of automatic blood pressure monitor is notorious for being incorrect… yet doctors still use it for its ease.

Then she asked me how they held my arm while taking my blood pressure and slowly shook her head as I answered.  It seems there is a right way and a wrong way to hold the arm and – to further complicate matters – they differ depending upon the type of monitor being used.

Allow me to return to my roots for a second: Oy gevalt!  This is fairly complicated so let’s uncomplicate it.

I went to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertension-home-monitoring for the following:

Before Checking Your Blood Pressure

  • Find a quiet place to check your blood pressure. You will need to listen for your heartbeat.toliet
  • Make sure that you are comfortable and relaxed with a recently emptied bladder (a full bladder may affect your reading).
  • Roll up the sleeve on your arm or remove any tight-sleeved clothing.
  • Rest in a chair next to a table for 5 to 10 minutes. Your arm should rest comfortably at heart level. Sit up straight with your back against the chair, legs uncrossed. Rest your forearm on the table with the palm of your hand facing up.

Were you surprised as I was at the direction to empty your bladder?  Think for a minute.  Have any of your doctors requested you do that before they took your blood pressure reading?  Yet, it makes sense.  Not only will the full bladder itself affect the reading, so will the worry that you need to get to the restroom as soon as possible.

Okay, now we’re ready.  What’s next?

cup-of-coffee-2This time, I went to the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20047889?pg=2

  • Check your monitor’s accuracy.
  •  Measure your blood pressure twice daily. (Once in the morning before you take any medications, and once in the evening.)
  • Don’t measure your blood pressure right after you wake up.
  •  Avoid food, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol for 30 minutes before taking a measurement
  • Don’t talk while taking your blood pressure.

Whoa!  This simple act of placing your arm, wrist, or finger in a monitor is not simple at all when you break it down into smaller elements. I admit it; I’m a talker and have been told a time or two to stop talking while my blood pressure is being measured.carpal tunnel

I also like to get my chores out of the way as soon as I wake up, but I see I can’t. This makes for a long morning routine for me. First I take off the wrist braces I wear at night for the carpal tunnel.  Then I clean the mandibular advancement appliance I’ve had in my mouth all night for the sleep apnea and brush it and my teeth.  Usually I would drink that delicious first cup of coffee now, but if I do, I have to wait for 30 minutes before taking my blood pressure.  Hmmm, I have to wait 15 minutes to use the bite rim to readjust my mandibular anyway. But where do I fit in the medications?  Oh, I’ll work it out.

wristWell, what about the different kinds of blood pressure monitors? I use a wrist monitor which my PCP is simply not thrilled with.  Her feeling is that I’m taking my pressure through two bones, the radius and the ulna, as opposed to only one bone, the humerus, with an arm device. There’s also the finger monitor, but that could be a problem if you have thin or cold fingers.

There are manual and battery operated versions of these monitors.  If you use an arm monitor, be aware that larger cuffs are available if needed. The one thing most blood pressure sites agree upon is that it’s not a good idea to rely on drug store monitors for your readings.

Most doctors will agree that the old fashioned sphygmomanometer is the best.  You’ll find this defined on page 135 of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

The cuff, the measuring device and the wires that connect the two in a machine used

to measure your blood pressure, commonly called a blood pressure meter.s

I find myself wanting to make some crack about writing this blog raising my blood pressure, but in all honesty, writing the blog is still one of my joys.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sleepus Interruptus

I just started – and trashed – three different versions of what I thought today’s blog would be about because I didn’t understand the research.  That’s the trouble with not being a doctor, and why I always remind you to speak with your nephrologist before you take anyone’s advice about your Chronic Kidney Disease, even mine.

I finally decided to write about my first choice.  This is yet another indication that our hunches are right.  My hunch after a night of waking up just about every hour was to write about CKD and interrupted sleep.  I should have listened to myself and saved all that time.baby-shots-5

DaVita.com at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/living-with-ckd/sleep-issues-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4896 tells us there are several reasons CKD patients have sleep problems:

  • restless leg syndrome
  • sleep apnea
  • inadequate dialysis clearance
  • emotions
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • caffeine

We share most of these reasons with those who do not have CKD except for those dealing with dialysis.  This includes the inadequate dialysis clearance.  It also includes restless leg syndrome which is usually associated with hemodialysis session. Since I only write about early stage, I won’t be discussing these causes.

Let’s talk about sleep apnea.  I wrote a blog about on August 12, 2012 that refers to this.  The most important information from that blog is:

“I found a study at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/538872which clearly links

sleep apnea and hypertension. Dr. John J. Sim makes the connection very clear:

‘We think there may be a causative factor here; that sleep apnea may be causing directGlomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpg

 glomerular injury,’ Dr. John J. Sim (Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles, CA) told renalwire .

‘We already know that sleep apnea causes hypertension and that hypertension causes

kidney disease.’ If some degree of causality can be shown, it’s possible that treating sleep

 apnea may slow the progression of kidney disease, the authors speculate.”

This particular study was conducted in 2005.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was also the subject of January 13, 2014’s blog.  That’s where the following information is from:

“Have I ever told you I have sleep apnea?  And that this affects CKD patients? I do and it

does. According to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20676805, one of the National

Institutes of Health’s sites, sleep apnea can raise blood pressure, which in itself is one of

the problems of CKD.  It can also result in glomerular hyperfiltration.”

This is from a 2010 study.

madOkay, so I have sleep apnea, had a sleep study and started wearing a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) at night to correct the problem, yet I still experience interrupted sleep.

Hmmmm, what is this ‘changes in sleep patterns’? Oh, of course.  Because I have CKD, I become more tired and even drowsy during the day.  Maybe I’ll sit on the couch in the family room to read for a bit; maybe I’ll even lay down there; and maybe – just maybe – I’ll fall asleep during the day.  Nothing wrong with naps, but if they’re long naps they could interfere with your sleep pattern.

So can going to bed earlier.  I tried that on really tired days and ended up waking up repeatedly.  I do go right back to sleep, but it just didn’t seem restful. Keep in mind that as you age, your sleep cycles are lighter and shorter.  So I may think I’m getting all the sleep I need, but the waking up interrupts the cycling of the different stages of sleep and then I start the cycles all over again.

WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-101 tells us,

Victorian clock“During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds

bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system. As you get older, you

sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep. Aging is also associated with shorter time spans

of sleep, although studies show the amount of sleep needed doesn’t appear to diminish

   with age.”

Uh-oh, the deep stages of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep are stages 3 and 4 which I may be missing by constantly waking up.  These are also the stages during which the body restores itself.

Emotions?  I can see that.  I dwell on the family’s medical problems, or someone I know and love who is out of work, or even my sweet Bella’s brush with cancer and I can get myself truly worked up.  So I don’t.  I mean I don’t think about these things at bedtime.  If I can’t seem to get them out of my head, I write a list of things to think about tomorrow.  As simplistic as it sounds, it works for me.  This is one piece of advice you don’t need to check with your nephrologist.

Wait a minute!  Who included my beloved caffeine on this list?????? This is where I get emotional.  Those two cups of caffeine a day are the only item on my renal diet that help me not feel deprived.  Okay, maybe we do need to be a bit rational about this (Don’t you just hate to be a grown up sometimes?).

This is what The National Sleep Foundation at http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/caffeine-and-sleep has to offer us about caffeine and sleep:

“Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can

have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body,CoffeeCupPopCatalinStock

caffeine will persist for several hours: it takes about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine

to be eliminated.”

Six hours for only half to be eliminated?  You mean, twelve hours for all of it to be eliminated?  I have got to stop drinking caffeine after noon. Okay, I can learn to live with that.  Heck, it’s better than no coffee at all.

Hopefully these suggestions will take care of my interrupted sleep problems.  Now what about yours?  Remember to speak with your nephrologist if you want to explore any of my suggestions.  As far as the emotions causing sleep problems, if my trick doesn’t work for you and you feel you need professional help with your emotions, please get it.

Here’s my last suggestion: buy a copy of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease before Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease: The Book of Blogs is published. Then you’ll have the set of two.Book signing

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s All Connected

About those random posts you may be receiving from me… I am transforming the blog into a book as promised.  However, I don’t really know what I’m doing and am learning on the job, so to speak.  I Kidney Book Coverwouldn’t be at all surprised if you heard me yelling, “OH, NO!” (and worse) at least once a day from now until the process is complete.  I guess you’re bearing witness to my learning process. Boy, am I ever grateful you’re a patient lot!

Now, what I really wanted to write about. I got a call from my primary care physician telling me that while I had improved my BUN, Creatinine, BUN/Creatinine Ratio, LDL, and eGFR levels on my last blood test, the Microalbumin, Urine, Random value was abnormal at 17.3. I checked online to make certain I had heard her correctly.

Dr. H. Zhao practices at Deer Valley Family Medicine here in Phoenix.  The practice started using a site to report your results as soon as they’re available, sometimes the next day.  I wonder why I got that call at all when this process is in place.

When I finally finished congratulating myself for all these improvements, I started to question why the Microalbumin value was out of range.  I knew it hadn’t been out of range last year, but I did have Chronic Kidney Disease.  That in itself would have meant it would be out of whack, wouldn’t it?

Here we go again.  I pulled out my trusty copy of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and turned to Chapter 5, “What Flows Through You,”  The Random Urine Tests,  number 9299 on page 52 (Honestly? I used the word search function for the digital book, even though I had the print copy in front of me.  It’s just plain easier!) and found:

“tests for micro, or very small amounts, of  albumin in the urine. Ur stands for urine. Albumin is a form of protein that is water soluble. Urine is a liquid, a form of water, so theBook Cover

  albumin should have been dissolved. Protein in the urine may be an indication of kidney disease.”

Of course I wanted more.  We all know micro from micro-mini skirts (Are you old enough to remember those?) and microscope.

Wait, if protein in the urine “may be an indication of kidney disease” – which I have – why was this a problem?  Or was it a problem?

Both high blood pressure (which I do have) and diabetes (which I don’t) could be the cause since both may lead to the proteinuria (protein in the urine, albumin is a protein as mentioned above) which may indicate CKD. Microalbuminia could be the first step to proteinuria.

But, as usual with medical conditions, it’s not that black and white.  I scurried over to our old friend WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/proteinuria-protein-in-urine to look for other risk factors and found these:

  • Obesity
  • Age over  65
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure and proteinuria in pregnancy)
  • Race and ethnicity: African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders are more likely than whites to have high blood pressure and develop kidney disease and proteinuria.

While I’m well past child bearing, I’m also over 65 and, ummm, (how’s this for hedging?) clinically obese.  Does that mean proteinuria is to be my new norm?

NIHMaybe there’s something more I can do about this.  According to Skip NavigationU.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES‘ National Kidney and Urologic Diseases‘ Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), A service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH) at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/proteinuria/

“In addition to blood glucose and blood pressure control, the National Kidney Foundation recommends restricting dietary salt and protein. A doctor may refer a patient

to a dietitian to help develop and follow a healthy eating plan.”

 This is nuts!  I have CKD.  I already restrict myself to five ounces of protein a day. I’ve abolished table salt from the house and watch the salt content in the foods I eat. I’m handling my blood pressure with Losartan/HCTZ. (See the next paragraph.) I haven’t progressed from microalbuminuria to proteinuria, yet I’m still doing more damage to my body.

MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/losartan_and_hydrochlorothiazide/article.htm explains the Losartan/HCTZ very well:blood pressure 300dpi jpg

“Losartan (more specifically, the chemical formed when the liver converts the inactive losartan into an active chemical) blocks the angiotensin receptor. By blocking

the action of angiotensin, losartan relaxes the muscles, dilates blood vessels and thereby reduces blood pressure….Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) is a diuretic (water

pill) used for treating high blood pressure (hypertension) and accumulation of fluid. It works by blocking salt and fluid reabsorption in the kidneys, causing an

increased amount of urine containing salt (diuresis).”

Uh-oh, that leaves blood glucose, which has never been high for me.  However, my A1C has been high since this whole CKD ride has started.A1C

Let’s back track a little. The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/a1c-test/basics/definition/PRC-20012585  tells us:

“The A1C test result reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Specifically, the A1C test measures what percentage of your hemoglobin — a protein in

red blood cells that carries oxygen — is coated with sugar (glycated). The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of diabetes complications.”

I don’t have diabetes…yet.  It’s becoming clear that I will – in addition to worsening my CKD – if I don’t pay even more attention to my diet and become more stringent about sore kneeexercising.  It’s sooooo easy to say not today when the arthritis rears its ugly head…or knee.

It’s been said there’s no way to do it, but to do it (by me, folks.  Ask my children.) So now I need to take my own advice and get back to the stricter enforcement of the rules I know I need to live by.  After all, they let me live.

If you ever needed proof that the body is an intricate thing with all its part being integrated, you got it today.

Until next week,

keep living your life!

Number Three on The List

“Other studies have suggested that once diagnosed with kidney disease, weight loss may slow kidney disease progression, but this is the first research study to support losing belly fat and limiting phosphorus consumption as a possible way to prevent kidney disease from developing.”Vassalotti Photo June2010  Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, chief medical officer at the National Kidney Foundation  11/3/13

Why has this little gem not caused more positive uproar?  We already accept that high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of Chronic Kidney Disease and that preventing each may lessen your chances of developing the disease.  Are we now looking at a third deterrent to developing CKD?

When I first wrote What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I was so eager to spread the word that I called Dr. Vassalotti and asked him to read the book.  He was encouraging, and oh-so-willing to discuss anything CKD.  I immediately trusted and believed what he had to say… and believe him now, especially with the research studies behind him.

So what is phosphorous, anyway?  I defined it in my book as

“One of the electrolytes, works with calcium for bone formation, but too much can cause calcification where you don’t want it: joints, eyes, skin and heart.”Book Cover

Hmmm, I don’t see any relation to preventing CKD there.  I researched my usual sites and found that they also discussed the effects of phosphorus on the bones in CKD, but nothing about how limiting it might prevent the disease from developing. 

You can find an abstract of the original study (but it’s rough going unless you have a medical background) at: http://www.ajkd.org/article/S0272-6386(13)00825-1/abstract. By the way, this is a well-respected journal, should you be interested in taking a gander. 

It was too technical for me, so I keep referring to the Medical News Today article.  In research work, this is called a secondary source.

AJKD Okay, let’s take another look at The American Journal of Kidney Disease’s information about this study as it was covered by Medical News Today at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/268144.php.

But first, here’s what I found about phosphorous at MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine at The National Institutes of Health   (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002424.htm),

“It plays an important role in how the body uses carbohydrates and fats. It is also needed for the body to make protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues.”

This is new information to me and makes sense according to the article in Medical News Today.  So we’re not just dealing with phosphorus’s importance in bone health, but in the body’s use of carbs and fats.

If phosphorous is not doing its job as an electrolyte, there’s a good chance you are gaining weight. Think about all those carbs and fats not properly being eliminated from your body.  More caloric intake equals fat development.  (I do realize we’re not taking exercise into account here.)

This sentence from The Huffington Post’s Healthy Living section last March caught my attention in a big way: “Belly fat is also much more inflammatory than fat located elsewhere in the body and can create its own inflammatory chemicals (as a tumor would). “ You can read the entire article at: belly fathttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/21/body-fat-facts_n_2902867.html

Inflammatory?  Isn’t CKD an inflammatory disease? I went to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, which took me to the National Library of Medicine and finally to a National Institute of Health study at http://http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3332073/ for the answer.

“The persistent inflammatory state is common in diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

This is a lot to take in at once.  What it amounts to is that another way to possibility prevent the onset of CKD is to lower your phosphorous intake so that you don’t accumulate belly fat.  All we need to know now is how this possible inflammatory state can cause CKD.

Thank you to Medical News Today for making it clear in this article:

“The researchers from Johns Hopkins claim that reducing your waist circumference and cutting down on dietary phosphorus have been linked to lower levels of protein in the urine (albuminuria). The presence of this protein in urine is one of the first indicators of kidney disease.”

chocolateI exercise.  I follow the kidney diet.  What was I eating before I developed CKD that might have contributed to its onset?

Although I considered myself a health nut, I loved chocolate…milk chocolate. Yep, high in phosphorous.

As I researched different sites, I realized being a health nut was exactly the opposite of what I should have been.  All of the following are on the majority of high phosphorous food lists: quinoa, oats, bran, milk, cheese, whole wheat, whole grain, dried beans or peas, brown rice or wild rice.

If you’re identifying with me, do not – I repeat: do not – beat yourself up.  Remember the connection between high phosphorous levels, belly fat, and CKD is new information.

Here’s a hint: avoid processed foods since they have phosphorous added to extend their shelf life.  I learned that somewhere along the way in my CKD journey, probably from my renal nutritionist. You can also add a recent product, flavored water, to the list of high phosphorous foods to avoid.

Unfortunately, phosphorous is not usually listed on labels.  Although, I did see PHOS listed once or twice.  Hopefully, it will become common usage to list phosphorous in the near future.

When I was a young woman, I wondered why I should keep up with the latest scientific research.  After all, new discoveries were making what I already learned obsolete on a daily basis.  Now I know why.

I have two daughters, two step-daughters, three almost sons-in-law, and a husband who loves me.  I want to be around to be part of their futures.  If it takes constant monitoring of the new CKD information, I’ll do it.

We leave for New York on Wednesday and I’m finally getting excited.  One or two medical emergencies in New York both kept me from being excited and wanting to hurry up to be there at the same time.  They are being resolved as I write.

AND I get to see Nima, my one child still living in New York. Oh, and friends of very, very long standing and my niece and her family.  Hah! I’m so excited now I can barely sit still to type. Nothing like dancing at the computer.NYC

Until next week when I’ll publish from The Big Apple,

Keep living your life!

How I Connect Coyotes and CKD

Sunday evening is the Sustainable Blues dance lesson at the Blooze Bar.  When Abby teaches, I go and then I do some marketing on the way home.blues

When Bear was helping me unload the groceries from my car last night, he pointed out a coyote casually walking down the street.  We’re only a quarter of a mile from an arroyo and often see wild life there, but other than bunnies and Gambrel Quail, not in front of the house.

This means Bella needs to stay in the house from before dusk until after dawn since those are prime hunting times for the coyote.  Her dog door was closed last night.  While she is a medium sized dog, I wouldn’t be surprised if a pack of coyotes could devour her… and that’s why IMAG0269 (1)they’re on our block.

These creatures are hungry and they want red meat.  They’re adaptable and will eat anything when they’re hungry enough – even garbage – but 90% of their diet consists of red meat when they can find it.  Notice I’m not citing any websites here.  This is common knowledge when you live in the desert, something I’ve done for the last dozen years.

The coyote sighting got me to thinking.  They eat red meat.  Humans do, too.  Yet, as Chronic Kidney Disease patients we’re urged away from this practice.  I accept it, but I’ve forgotten why and thought you might have, too.coyote

As usual, let’s start at the beginning.  Precisely what is ‘red meat’? According to the Bing Dictionary, red meat is “meat that is red when raw: meat that is relatively dark red in color when raw, e.g. beef or lamb.”

I don’t eat lamb and never have due to some childhood questioning as to why a child should eat another child. (Okay, so I was a deep thinker even then.) Red meat was the staple of the family’s diet when I grew up and no meal was considered complete without it. That’s not the case now.

red meatWebMD has a truly illuminating three page article debating the merits and demerits of red meat at http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-red-meat. Most of it deals with the protein and fat content.  That is something that should concern us as CKD patients.    (It also explains why pork is considered a red meat rather than a white meat as a former colleague at Phoenix College tried to convince me.)

Okay, so fat – and hence, cholesterol – is something that could adversely affect your heart, not great for anyone including us.  But, as CKD sufferers, it’s more the protein content of red meat that concerns us right now.

In What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, protein is defined as “Amino acids arranged in chains joined by peptide bonds to form a compound, important because some proteins are hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.”  That’s on pages 134-5 for those of you with a print copy of the book.  Those of you with a digital copy, use the word search function.

That definition says a lot.  Let’s take it bit by bit.  Amino acids, simply put, are “any one of many acids that occur naturally in living things and that include some which form proteins.”  Thank you, Merriam Webster Dictionary.  Did you notice that they may form proteins?  Keep that in mind.Book Cover

So what are peptide bonds, then? This is a bit more complicated, so I went to Education Portal at http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/peptide-bond-definition-formation-structure.html#lesson for the most easily understood definition: “Peptide bonds are the key linkages found in proteins. These bonds connect amino acids and provide one of the key foundations for protein structure.”  Again, proteins.  This is a bit circular, but the important point here is that both are involved in the production of protein.

The renal diet I follow restricts my daily protein intake to five ounces a day, but why? Back to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, page77 this time:

So, why is protein limited? One reason is that it is the source of a great deal of phosphorus. Another is that a number of nephrons were already destroyed before you were even diagnosed. Logically, those that remain compensate for those that are no longer viable. The remaining nephrons are doing more work than they were meant to. Just like a car that is pushed too hard, there will be constant deterioration if you don’t stop pushing. The idea is to stop pushing your remaining nephrons to work even harder in an attempt to slow down the advancement of your CKD.  Restricting protein is a way to reduce the nephrons’ work.

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.  The glomerulus is connected to a

Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpgrenal tubule, something so small that it is microscopic. The renal tubule is attached to a collection area.  The blood is filtered. Then the waste goes through the tubules to have water and chemicals balanced according to the body’s present needs. Finally, the waste is voided via your urine to the tune of 50 gallons of fluid filtered by the kidneys DAILY.  The renal vein uses blood vessels to take most of the blood back into the body.

For those of you who may have forgotten, phosphorus isn’t troublesome in early or moderate stage CKD, but can be in Stages 4 and 5.  Phosphorus works in conjunction with calcium to keep our bones and teeth healthy, but it has other jobs, too.  Compromised kidneys cannot filter out enough of this, though.  That can lead to calcification in parts of the body.

Confession time: after six years of following the Northern Arizona Council of Renal Nutrition Diet, I am not attracted to red meat.  Bear’s family traditionally has standing rib roast for Christmas and ham for Easter.  I will gladly cook them for the family – or buy them already cooked – but I’m fine with the steamed vegetables and a taste, a little one at that, of each of the meats. We don’t buy red meat when we market (except when Bear has an urge) and rarely eat it in restaurants. It wasn’t that hard to get out of the habit of always having red meat.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries

Here I was all ready to write about sulfur drugs and CKD or hearing and CKD when I received an email from  Cindy Bruggner who’d just bought some good looking bing cherries but wasn’t sure whether to eat them or not.  We all know that cherries simply don’t last that long, so – Cindy – this one’s for you.

cherries

The big issue about eating cherries when you have Chronic Kidney Disease is their potassium content. I went straight to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to see what I’d written about this. In the Glossary (on page 134) I found this definition:

“One of the electrolytes, important because it counteracts sodium’s effect on blood pressure.”

While that’s true, we’re going to need more to help Cindy out. So I turned to Chapter 8: The Renal Diet (page 75).

“Potassium is something you need to limit when you have CKD despite the fact that potassium not only dumps waste from your cells but also helps the kidneys, heart and muscles to function normally.  Too much potassium can cause irregular heartbeat and even heart attack.  This can be the most immediate danger of not limiting your potassium….

Book Cover…Check your blood tests. 3.5-5 is considered a safe level of potassium.  You may have a problem if your blood level of potassium is 5.1-6 and you definitely need to attend to it if it’s above 6.  Speak to your nephrologist ….”

I checked with the National Kidney Foundation http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium.cfm about those levels just to be sure they hadn’t changed since the book was published.  They haven’t.

That got me to wondering why cherries are considered good for the general population, but not CKD patients. So, of course, I did a little research.  Green and Healthy at http://www.greenandhealthy.info/kidneydisease.html#ckd suggests those without kidney disease eat cherries for the following reason:

“According to research from Michigan State University tart cherries contain anthocyanins [Thought you might like to know this means natural pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties], bioflavonoids, which inhibit the enzymes Cyclooxygenase-1 and -2, and prevent inflammation in the body. These compounds have similar activity as aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen.”

Sounds good to me since we can’t take some of those pain relievers, but cherries have the same effect.  Something was nagging at me though.  Back to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. As I read page 3, I realized why:

“The problem with unregulated minerals, such as sodium and potassium is that these minerals are needed to remain healthy but too much in the bloodstream becomes toxic. The kidneys remove these toxins and change them into urine that enters the bladder via the ureter.”kidney location

Well, healthy kidneys do, but just how effective are your compromised kidneys at doing this job? I went to DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/diet-and-nutrition/lifestyle/top-15-healthy-foods-for-people-with-kidney-disease/e/5347, but in addition to the usual warnings about potassium levels, I found this:

“1/2 cup serving fresh sweet cherries = 0 mg sodium, 160 mg potassium, 15 mg phosphorus

Cherries have been shown to reduce inflammation when eaten daily. They are also packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect the heart.”

Does that mean they’re good for CKD patients?

From my reading, I’ve also garnered the information that cherries can help with iron deficiencies, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, help with gout, and lower the risk of heart disease.

Or can they? Remember that too much potassium can actually cause an irregular heartbeat or possibly stop your heart.

Oh Cindy, I’m sure I’ve only added to your confusion.  Watch your potassium levels.  Look them up on your last blood test.  Why not give your nephrologist a call, too, just to be sure.  Do you have a renal nutritionist? He or she would know far better than I since this question of whether to eat the cherries or not is so individualized.

Then we have stages.  I am stage 3, which I used to think was early stage (hence the book’s title) but now realize is moderate damage.  I don’t know what stage Cindy is, but I do know the dietary rules change when you reach end stage and I’m going to guess they’re even different for those on different kinds of dialysis and those who are transplants.stages chart

So Cindy’s question is sort of asking me which sexual position is best for her.  I’m purposely being provocative here so that you’ll see just how individualized the renal diet is. What’s best for you depends on your needs.  Call the nutritionist!

Knowing End Stage Renal Disease is not my area of expertise, I took a peek at National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), A service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)National Institutes of Health (NIH), at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/eatright/index.aspx#potassium anyway to see what dialysis patients can eat.  Apparently, potassium could be a problem here, too. This is what I found:

“Potassium is a mineral found in many foods, especially milk, fruits, and vegetables. It affects how steadily your heart beats. Healthy kidneys keep the right amount of potassium in the blood to keep the heart beating at a steady pace. Potassium levels can rise between dialysis sessions and affect your heartbeat. Eating too much potassium can be very dangerous to your heart. It may even cause death.”

Okay, cherries can be a problem.  Then I started wondering if it mattered what type of cherries they were. I found at least 18 different kinds, but none of the websites discussed potassium.

I learned more about cherries and potassium than I thought I wanted to.  I’m sure you did, too, but I offer you the same advice I offered Cindy: check with your renal nutritionist or nephrologist – always.  I am not a doctor, but rather someone who researches CKD on a layman’s level.  Cindy, thanks for asking.

Holy cow!  July 4th weekend is sneaking up on us!  I’m looking forward to as much water walking as we can get in since two, not one, but two neighbors have offered us the use of their backyard pools – one actually a lap pool – and we have discovered our neighborhood pool which charges only $20 per person a season.  We may not have the ocean out here, but we’ve got lots of pools.  Here’s hoping you enjoy your holiday weekend.

Kidney Book CoverWhoops!  Almost forgot to include that SlowItDown will now be sharing the book’s Facebook page, twitter account, website (http.gail-rae.com), email address (myckdexperience@gmail.com) and telephone number (602-509-4965).  I was getting run down trying to run the two separately in addition to my personal one!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not ON the Water, IN It

It’s hot, 112 degrees already and summer has just started. Much as I’d love to, I can’t stay in the house writing all day, every day. I also need to exercise on a daily basis… as do you if you have Chronic Kidney Disease.

What’s that? Why do you have to exercise if you have CKD, you ask? Let’s go back to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, page 100, for the answer to that one. (Digital book owners, don’t forget to use the search document function instead of the page number.)Book Cover

“I knew exercise was important to control my weight. It would also improve my blood pressure and lower my cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The greater your triglycerides, the greater the risk of increasing your creatinine. There were other benefits, too, although you didn’t have to have CKD to enjoy them: better sleep, and improved muscle function and strength. But, as with everything else you do that might impinge upon your health, check with your doctor before you start exercising.

I researched, researched and researched again. Each explanation of what exercise does for the body was more complicated than the last one I read. Keeping it simple, basically, there’s a compound released by voluntary muscle contraction. It tells the body to repair itself and grow stronger. The idea is to start exercising slowly and then intensity your activity.”

I’ve mentioned water walking as an exercise and gotten quite a few questions about it. I have to admit I’d never heard of it before I moved to Arizona and met Bear. His house is in a senior citizen community that has a community center with a water walking pool.

It was exciting to be doing something I’d never done before and questioned him unmercifully, although he kept telling me you get in a pool that has lanes and walk. I could not visualize it, so I went online to see what it looked like. Then I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like, especially for someone who always wants to be near water rather than in it.

The pool was enormous to my water walking pool virgin eyes. There were shady parts and sunny parts. Uh-oh, I was going to have to get a hat with a bigger brim to protect my neck and shoulders from the sun, too. Oh, and water soluble sunscreen.sun hat

I couldn’t make sense of the arrows on the pool floor and the curvy shoulder high dividing walls between lanes until I was actually in the pool. I started out in waist high water following the arrows and keeping in the lanes they pointed to on different sides of the dividers until I found myself in chin high water when we completed our first circuit.

water walkingNow it all made sense. It was just like traffic lanes and directional markings on the road when you drive! Of course, waist and chin high are relative. I’m 5’5’, so Bear’s 5’10” meant the water was not as high on him.

There’s another benefit to water walking if you have arthritis. You’ve read my complaints about arthritis here and even in the Wall Street Journal column by Laura Landro about CKD Awareness activists (I still prefer being called an advocate). If you missed it, you can read that article in the January 20th, 2014 blog.

I went to the site of The Arthritis Foundation at http://www.arthritistoday.org/what-you-can-do/staying-active/activity-types/water-walking.php and read the following:

“Like all water exercises, water walking is easy on the joints. ‘The water’s buoyancy supports the body’s weight, which reduces stress on the joints and minimizes pain,’ says Jones [an aquatic coordinator]. ‘And it’s still a great workout. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air, so as you walk, you’re really strengthening and building muscle.’ You do not bear weight while swimming and walking, however, so you’ll still need to add some bone-building workouts to your routine.”

My almost constantly complaining knees were quiet in the water walking pool. My slightly painful hip didn’t seem to hurt. And, best of all, my elbows weren’t aching. I’m sold. What makes it even better is that water walking strengthens your muscles.

The bottom of the pool is purposely rough to prevent slips. After one circuit without water shoes, I knew I’d have to get some. While they were not severely damaged, I did notice annoying little scraps and cuts on the soles of my feet, especially my toes.water walking shoes

That probably means I was walking on my toes, something the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/multimedia/aquatic-exercise/sls-20076730 suggests you NOT do.

“In water that’s about waist-high, walk across the pool swinging your arms like you do when walking on land. Avoid walking on your tiptoes, and keep your back straight. Tighten your abdominal muscles to avoid leaning too far forward or to the side.”

I’ll also have to work on tightening my abdominals since I walked into the wall or the dividers a few times. I knew I wasn’t drunk (I don’t drink), so now I know why this happened.

A non-medical site, Ask.com, had some information about how you can water walk in any water. After all, not everyone has access to a water walking pool.

• Walk forward and backward with short steps, long steps, average steps, or step kicks.

• Move in a pattern of a circle or square. Be sure to go in both directions to balance the demands on your body.

There are more suggestions about technique at their site: http://spas.about.com/od/exercise/a/waterwalking.htm

SlowItDown business card

The big news here these days is that SlowItDown and What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease are combining their Facebook and Twitter accounts. When you want to catch up with SlowItDown, just go to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. There will still be a daily tidbit about our disease on both. It occurred to me that I was doing double duty (Say that three times fast!) since both deal with the same issue.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Your Thyroid and Chronic Kidney Disease Have Something Going On.

Today’s blog was written at the request of a reader.  The deal is I write a blog about hyperthyroid and its connection to Chronic Kidney Disease and she goes directly to her nephrologist to ask him the same questions she asked me.

While I’m a good researcher, I am not a doctor and that’s who should be asked your CKD questions.  Come to think of it, any time you receive any well-meant advice about this disease, check with your nephrologist first… even if you admire the brain of the person giving the advice.THYROID_72

Let’s do our usual go-back-to-basics-first.  The thyroid, according to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/understanding-thyroid-problems-basics , “… secretes several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones. The main hormone is thyroxine, also called T4. Thyroid hormones act throughout the body, influencing metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. During infancy and childhood, adequate thyroid hormone is crucial for brain development.”

There doesn’t seem to be anything alarming there, so let’s go to the T4.  I turned to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for information about this and found it on page 23 (Usual reminder: digital book owners, use a word search rather than a page).

“What this test is really for is to see if the T3 test comes back abnormal.  If it does, the lab needs to run another thyroid test.  That test, the T4, is a further thyroid test which looks for specific causes of the abnormality.”

Ah, so we need to be tested via a blood draw to see if there is an abnormality in our thyroid function.  Without getting technical, the abnormalities could be hypothyroid or hyperthyroid.  As a former English teacher, I know hypo is a prefix (group of letters added to the beginning of a word that changes its meaning) that means under, while hyper means over.

blood_test_vials_QAMy reader’s question was about hyperthyroid, but for the safe of completeness, I’ll include the symptoms of hypothyroid. These are the main symptoms – although there are many more – as found on http://thyroid.org.nz/Thyroid_Problems.php

  1. Cold hands and feet
  2. Chronic fatigue
  3. Lethargy and fatigue
  4. Emotional instability
  5. Depression

Hyperthyroid is not as common as hypothyroid and presents different symptoms:

  1. Sweating
  2. Anxiety and Excitability
  3. Thirst
  4. Racing heart
  5. Hunger
  6. Muscle weakness
  7. Shortness of breath
  8. High blood pressure
  9. Insomnia
  10. Weight loss

Numbers 7 & 8 caught my eye immediately since they seem to have something to do with CKD.

The diagnose I was specifically asked about is hyperthyroid, renal.  We already know renal means kidney, so this deals with how the overactive thyroid affects the kidneys.  Remember that hormones travel through the blood and that the thyroid produces a hormone.  Too much of that hormone produces the above symptoms.thyroid

As I understand it (and, again, I am not a doctor) – as mentioned –  the thyroid produces a hormone which is released into the blood, while the kidneys filter the blood.  If you have CKD, your kidneys are not functioning as well as they should.  If you have hyperthyroid, you are producing extra thyroid hormone that your compromised kidneys cannot purge from your blood as well as they should.

This quote from Wellness Resources at http://www.wellnessresources.com/health/articles/thyroid_and_kidney_problems_overlap/#ref1  encapsulates the interplay between the kidneys and the thyroid:

“A considerable body of science now links thyroid problems and kidney problems  in a “chicken and egg” manner.”

So yes, Cynthia, the CKD could have caused the hyperthyroid, renal, and vice versa.  However, hypothyroid does seem to be more common than hyperthyroid.

If there are topics you’d like me to research for you, Dear Readers (after Stephen King’s writing), please ask.  You can leave a comment here or inbox me on Facebook via the blog’s page.  I offer you the same deal.  I’ll research for you providing you ask your nephrologist the same question you’re asking me.

It’s clear to me that digital books are not the future of anything, but are what’s more desired right now.  Digital copies of What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Chronic Kidney Disease consistently outsell the print copy.  That’s fine with me.  While you can pass around a print copy, you can also share the digital copy.  Just keep sharing the Chronic Kidney Disease information.

Another way to share is to send SlowItDown the list of communities in your area that could use CKD education.  It’s free. It’s taught by trained educators. And it’s brought to you.  Could your church use the education as a public service?  What about your local library?  Police station?  Senior citizen center?  Let’s get those phones ringing, folks.  602 509-4965. Don’t feel like talking to me?  Then email: ckded@cox.net.

I am absolutely thrilled that health treatment companies are starting to ask me what it’s like to be a CKD patient, even though I am an early stage patient.  Their interest means the medical profession is looking for new, possibly more effective, ways to slow down the progress of our incurable disease.The Table

On a personal note, we got out for a date day this past Friday.  I once considered a movie and dinner sort of humdrum as a date.  Now that we are still dealing with medical issues, it is wonderful!  Life is definitely a matter of how you look at yours… and mine gets better every day.

We also got out to a party for a bit this weekend.  I’m always amazed that the one person at a social function whose mother has CKD, or whose brother is a nephrologist, or whose roommate works in a doctor’s office, or who is worried about high blood pressure sits right next to me and starts talking.

On another front entirely, sometimes, as (slightly) older people with medical issues, we need help.  So we organized a text group message list.  It includes all our daughters out here in Arizona and two of their significant others.  A third significant other and the woman I consider my niece just asked to be added to the list.

I’d thought it was a burden, but these younger, (thankfully) healthy people WANT to help us out when we need it.  Maybe this would be a good idea for you.SlowItDown business card

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Higher and Higher

Today we start off with an announcement:  What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease’s profits have offset the cost of 2011’s donations of itself! That is not bragging about earnings, but rather an indication of just how many books were donated that year.Book Cover

And just why is that important to anyone but Gail, you ask.  Remembering my passion is to get the information about CKD out to the public, you’ll be able to see the connection after reading this:

“That guideline {e.g. providing a common language for communication among providers, patients and their families, investigators, and policy-makers and a framework for developing a public health approach to affect care and improve outcomes of CKD} led to a paradigm change in the approach to CKD, shifting from an uncommon disease often culminating in kidney failure and treatment by nephrologists to a common condition leading to death from cardiovascular disease. As a result, CKD is now accepted as a worldwide public health problem and the global guideline was developed to address this issue.”

This quote is from Andrew S. Levey, MD, co-chair of the NKF KDOQI workgroup that developed the 2002 CKD Guideline and Dr. Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Professor of Medicine at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

NKF-logo_Hori_OBYou can probably figure out that NKF is the National Kidney Foundation, but you might need a little help with KDOQI.  That’s the acronym for their Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative.

2002 was a long time ago, but this statement was issued on December 27th, 2012, which was the night before the release of Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO).

By the way, many thanks to the National Kidney Foundation for each time they’ve asked me to write for them, suggested my name for articles about kidney disease awareness advocates, or offered me suggestions.

I’ve freely quoted from their page: http://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/nr/Updated-CKD-Guideline-Enable-Physicians-Predict-More-Accurately.cfm, and yet, there’s even more information there.  Take a look for yourself.

So, CKD is now a common disease. And many people suffering from it die of cardiovascular disease. And hypertension can lead to that… and CKD.  Seems pretty circular.

Back to basics.  Hypertension or high blood pressure is defined on page 132 of What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“A possible cause of CKD, 140/90 mm Hg is currently considered hypertension, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, too.”

blood pressure 300dpi jpg

Now, about that 140/90…. According to the National Institutes of Health‘s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/printall-index.html, as of January, 2014,

“If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or higher is considered HBP.”

Not only that, but blood pressure can change depending upon the arm that is being used to measure it, the time of day, whether you’ve just smoked (Just don’t!), had a cup of coffee or eaten just prior to the test, even if you’ve just woken up.  We all know what worry or stress can do to your blood pressure.  It seems even your race can make a difference.

_68045928_picture1A little less than a year ago, a team at London University College developed a wrist sensor to measure blood pressure as the blood leaves the heart itself. They discovered that blood pressure does not drop as much as thought during the night and that it might be possible to predict heart disease by using this monitoring.

I was particularly interested since I have a wrist monitor that my PCP (primary care physician) prefers I not use, thinking the measurement of the blood passing through the arm arteries more accurate.  I’d originally thought this was a wrist monitor but it doesn’t measure the blood flowing through the wrist.  This was a surprise to me and one I’d like to follow closely.  If you’d like to, also, take a look at http://www.bbc.com/news/health-22812477

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a chart that makes clear why Blacks (or African Americans as they are referred to in the chart) are at 3.5 times the risk of CKD.  Look at the numbers, ladies and gents.  Hbp {high blood pressure} is the second leading cause of CKD. As usual, there’s so much more information about high blood pressure on their page: http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm.

Race of Ethnic Group Men (%) Women (%)
African Americans 43.0 45.7
Mexican Americans 27.8 28.9
Whites 33.9 31.3
All 34.1 32.7

 

 
 
   
   

It’s common knowledge that exercise can lower blood pressure, but how many readers know that it can also make your blood pressure medication more effective? On 4/23 of last year, The American Heart Association issued this statement:

“Alternative therapies such as aerobic exercise, resistance or strength training and isometric hand grip exercises could help people reduce blood pressure. Biofeedback and device-guided slow breathing reduced blood pressure a small amount. Due to their modest effects, alternative therapies can be used with — not as a replacement for — standard treatment.”

Rae%208x10%205792%20Sepia%20TinType[1]Oh, so that’s why I didn’t give away the isometric hand grips when we gave up 1880s competitive shooting.  Good for the trigger finger, just as good for the blood vessels – with proper medication.

Wait a minute.  Both the United Kingdom and the United States have populations with almost a third of the people suffering high blood pressure. Think about this.  What could this mean?

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or not, but life seems to be moving so fast these days.  First there was Passover, then Easter, now Mother’s Day coming up with Father’s Day soon to follow and all those lovely birthdays and anniversaries in between.  How much stress is this?  How much stress is getting ready for your vacation?

No, I’m not saying these occasions should be ignored to lower our blood pressure.  I am saying we are the ones in control of how we treat these occasions.  Are they going to be occasions of stress?  Or gatherings with joint efforts and a relaxed delight in seeing the people involved? {And now you know why our wedding invitation – which I wrote – refers to me as “the Former Wannabe Hippie.”}

Happy Mother’s Day to all those who are mothers, wish they were, have mothers, or ever even remotely considered motherhood – male moms included.Mother's Day 2012  And what better gift for the mom in a family that has a CKD sufferer than…

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s the Salt of the Earth

passoverPassover begins tonight at sundown. A Guten Pesach for all those who celebrate.  We’re hosting the first seder here tonight.  Only  three of our eleven guests are Jewish, although there is a hint of Jewish blood in a few others.  All are welcome… including Elijah.

Yesterday, I attended a Palm Sunday Brunch hosted by an acting colleague. Unfortunately for me, none of the food she carefully made from scratch was on the renal diet (I can’t eat many of the traditional Passover foods either), so I did my taste-each-food-to-be-polite thing. I had such minimal amounts of each that I wasn’t doing damage to my kidneys, but I also discovered new tastes.

I realized none of this food tasted salty to me, as food not on the renal diet usually does. When asked, she told me she doesn’t use salt but spices instead. This stuff was delicious! If I weren’t on the renal diet, I would have asked her for the recipes for each dish she’d made.

Nancy’s not using salt in her cooking got me to thinking if we needed salt at all. Actually, I knew we did, but I didn’t know why. I poked around and found the following on an NPR blog:

“If you don’t keep up your sodium level in your body, you will die,” explains Paul Breslin, a researcher at the Monell Center, a research institute in downtown Philadelphia devoted to the senses of taste and smell. (Breslin also teaches at Rutgers University.) “

That’s extraordinarily blunt, but there’s quite a bit more about this at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/12/20/167619010/the-paradox-and-mystery-of-our-taste-for-salt. What I got from this is the same question I usually have: why?Whatever Happened to Common Sense?

I remembered that salt regulates your hydration but decided to check this anyway. According to The Royal Academy of Chemistry at http://www.rsc.org/get-involved/hot-topics/Salt/do-we-need-salt.asp,

It is the sodium (ions) present in salt that the body requires in order to perform a variety of essential functions. Salt helps maintain the fluid in our blood cells and is used to transmit information in our nerves and muscles. It is also used in the uptake of certain nutrients from our small intestines. The body cannot make salt and so we are reliant on food to ensure that we get the required intake.

An EurekAlert at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-08/mu-anr082013.php made me realize another important function of sodium, the element our bodies cannot produce:

Researchers at McGill University have found that sodium – the main chemical component in table salt – is a unique “on/off” switch for a major neurotransmitter  receptor in the brain. This receptor, known as the kainate receptor, is fundamental for normal brain function and is implicated in numerous diseases, such as epilepsy neuropathic pain.

Normal brain function!brain

Just in case you didn’t take chemistry in high school or college – which I admit was too intimidating for me – salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride. It’s the 40% sodium that causes a problem if you have too much of it. This is a quandary. You need salt to live and function well, but too much can kill you via raising your blood pressure.

There is an ongoing controversy of how much salt we need on a daily basis. This is what is on Colorado State’s website at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09354.html:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended reducing sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. However, those with hypertension, over the age of 51, or who are African American, should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. This recommendation includes over half of all Americans.

But have they taken into account the fact that we sweat during the summer or when we work out and lose a great deal of sodium that way? Does that mean we need more sodium during these times? And how do you judge how much sodium is too much anyway? Or do we use the Goldilocks Theory of ‘just right’ here.

All right, then. The next logical question would be how much is usually too much. Hello Medical News Today at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146677.php. That’s where I found this handy, dandy, how much chart.

food labelHow to read food labels and identify high and low salt foods

You should check the labels of foods to find out which ones are high and low in salt

content. If the label has more than 1.5g of salt (or 0.6g of sodium) per 100g it is a

high salt content food.

If it has 0.3g of salt (0.1g of sodium) per 100g then it is a low salt content food. Anything in

between is a medium salt content food.

  • High salt content food = 1.5g of salt (or 0.6g of sodium) per 100g
  • Medium salt content food = between the High and Low figures
  • Low salt content food = 0.3g of salt (0.1g of sodium) per 100g

The amount you eat of a particular food decides how much salt you will get from it.

As renal patients, we need to pay special attention to the amount of sodium we ingest. I’m on the Northern Arizona Council of Renal Dietitians’ diet which permits 2,000 mg. of sodium a day. That’s really limited since a teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg. of sodium. Of course, now that I’m over 51 (okay, way over), I’m down to 1,500 mg. of sodium daily.

How do I keep within my guidelines, you ask? It’s become easy, but don’t forget I’ve had seven years to perfect it. We do have filled salt shakers available in the kitchen, but they’re invisible to me. I use spices in cooking instead. My best friend there is Mrs. Dash’s, although there are many other spices on the renal diet. I just like her (its?) blends. I check labels copiously when I do the marketing and Bear does too. If there’s hidden sodium in foods, there’s not much I can do about it. However, checking labels and ignoring the salt shaker will help keep my kidneys safe from too much sodium. (Pssst: I also ignore whatever food you can buy at gas stations.)salt shakers

As DaVita tells us (http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/diet-and-nutrition/diet-basics/sodium-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/5310)

Particularly damaging is sodium’s link to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause more damage to unhealthy kidneys. This damage further reduces kidney function, resulting in even more fluid and waste build up in the body.

Other sodium-related complications include the following:

  1. Edema: noticeable swelling in your legs, hands and face
  2. Heart failure: excess fluid in the bloodstream can overwork your heart making it enlarged and weak
  3. Shortness of breath: fluid can build up in the lungs, making it difficult to breatheUntil next week,

So lay off the salt, my friends.

recall centerBefore I leave you this week, I wanted to let you know that Dr. Mario Trucillo contacted me about his new company.  He is a Ph.D. with the American Recall Center (www. recallcenter.com) “a brand new medical information site aimed at bringing consumers the most up-to-date FDA information in easy to understand, plain language terms,” according to his e-mail.  I have been looking at the site and am pleased to announce I understood everything I read there… not often the case for me.  Why not take a look for yourself?  There are not that many plain language medical websites available. The more I look at this one, the more I like it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Good bye to National Kidney Month

I thought it over and decided to print the letter The National Kidney Foundation asked me to write for the syndicated Dear Annie column (Does anyone click on links anymore?). This is what was published on March 10, three days before World Kidney Day.

Annie’s Mailbox® by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar

Dear Annie:

I switched doctors six years ago — and my world fell apart. My new doctor insisted on all kinds of new tests, and I’m glad she did. Simple blood and urine tests let me know that there was a good possibility my kidneys weren’t functioning well.

I didn’t know that there are rarely any symptoms until the kidneys are failing. I didn’t know that one in three American adults is at risk for kidney disease. I didn’t know that high blood pressure and diabetes are two of the leading causes of this disease. But I learned quickly that early detection and proper treatment can slow its progress.

I learned so much in the following months: why I need to watch my weight, why regular exercise helps and why I need to make sure my high blood pressure is under control. I’ve been able to maintain the same degree of kidney function since being diagnosed, but not without lots of information and changes in my lifestyle.

March is National Kidney Month. March 13th is World Kidney Day. Won’t you help me join the National Kidney Foundation in urging Americans to learn about the risk factors and simple blood and urine tests for kidney disease? There are many free kidney health screenings around the country. The National Kidney Foundation at kidney.org provides information about these screenings and about staying healthy.

Thank you,

Gail Rae-Garwood

Glendale, Ariz.

the National Kidney Foundation, Inc.

And Annie’s response:

Dear Gail Rae-Garwood:

Thank you so much for sharing your story. We hope our readers will take your advice and check for screenings in their area or discuss their kidney health with their personal physicians. We are sure your letter will help many. Bless you.

We all know I’m well beyond getting a kick out of seeing my name in print (sort of), so why the letter? And why the great desire – let’s make that passion – to spread Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness?

Let me offer you some more statistics from The National Kidney Foundation at http://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/factsheets/FastFacts.cfm :

1 in 9 United States citizens have CKD.

Most of them don’t know they have it.

Blacks are three times more likely to undergo kidney failure.Book Cover

Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely.

Fewer than 17,000 have kidney transplants annually.

118,000 are on the waiting list for a kidney.

13 people die while awaiting a kidney transplant daily.

If your kidneys fail, only dialysis or transplant can keep you alive.

415,000 are on dialysis.

About 180,000 more are living transplantees.

Medical payments increase from $15,000 to $70,000 annually from stage 4 to stage 5 CKD.

Medicare pays $30 billion (yes, billion) annually on treatment for kidney failure.

image

(Photo by Nima Beckie.  Subject: Greater New York Kidney Walk participant tying his orange scarf on a lamp post midway across the Brooklyn Bridge.)

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/factsheets/kidney.htm offers more information:

More than 20 million people have CKD.

44% of new cases are caused by diabetes.

28% of new cases are caused by high blood pressure.warning

Between 1999 & 2010, more females than males developed CKD.

CKD occurrence increases in those over 50 years of age.

One of every three with diabetes develops CKD.

One of every five with high blood pressure develops CKD.

Men with CKD are twice as likely as women with CKD to develop kidney failure.

 

And now the National Institutes of Health at http://report.nih.gov/NIHfactsheets/ViewFactSheet :NIH

Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in dialysis patients.

Medicare is spending 6% of its payouts on kidney care.

Kidney disease runs in families.

warning

Of course, now you’re thoroughly grossed out and maybe scared out of your mind about ckd. Good! That’s exactly what I was aiming for.

I don’t see the point in you, your best buddy, your child, anyone who touches your life being diagnosed at stage 3 as I was. I wasted all of stage 1 and stage 2 when I could have been spending that time working to SLOW the decline of my kidneys so I could be one of the 80% of CKD patients who never needs dialysis or a transplant (and, no, I don’t mean because I already died).

And why did I was that much time instead of prolonging my life? I was never tested. That’s it. Simple, direct, and to the point. The fear here should be in having CKD and not knowing it instead of fearing you have it. If it turns out you don’t have CKD, I am extremely happy for you and maybe a bit envious. But if you do, let’s start working on prolonging your life NOW. You realize I’m not talking about a year or two, but decades here.

I want to see grandchildren, but my children aren’t ready for that yet. No problem. I am perfectly content to wait the five or ten years until they’re ready. By working hard at slowing the decline of my kidney function, I have the time to wait.baby-shots-5

The tests themselves are simple. Do you urinate? (You’d better be responding in the positive here or you’ve already got a bigger problem than CKD.) Then you can just urinate into a vial instead of the toilet. No special training needed. Ever have your blood drawn? Did you die from it? (I know, I know, but it’s a rhetorical question.) Okay, so have your blood drawn again and ask to be tested for Chronic Kidney Disease. It is not a separate blood test, but can be included in one you may be having anyway.

So it’s good bye to National Kidney Month, but not to taking care of yourself… say by having the blood and urine tests for CKD. Be a pal. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me. Don’t deprive the world of the pleasure of your company because you didn’t take the test.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

Book It!

With the holidays over and more time to think about what I’d like to write, I decided this would be a good time to update you about whatever other books are available that also concern Chronic Kidney Disease.

You know there are many out there, too many to mention here, so I eliminated any book that couldn’t be understood by a lay person (those without specific training in a certain field – in this case, medical) and renal diet books.  You can easily find those for yourself by going to Amazon.com and B&N.com. I also excluded those I found to be dubious… the spelling errors were a dead give-away that these were not professional.

I’m not going to tell you about What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease since you already know about it from this blog.  Let’s change that, I will tell you one or two things.  First, the books included in ‘Additional Resources’ (Chapter 13) won’t appear here, as good as they are.Book Cover

And – pay attention – students, be aware that both Campus Book Rentals and Chegg are attempting to rent the book to you for more than it costs to buy it.  The digital edition – when I was teaching college, my students always seemed to prefer the digital edition – is even less expensive.

Don’t forget about The KindleMatchBook program which allows you to buy the digital version at 70% discount if you’ve ever bought the print copy. Gather your classmates: pool your money so you can save. One of you buy the print edition, then the others can get the digital edition at deep discount (I have no idea why, but I love that phrase).

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, have never have claimed to be one , AND am not endorsing the following books, simply letting you know they exist. For the most part, the descriptions were written by the author. The ‘Look Inside!’ function only works if you follow the link to Amazon.com – sorry! I have been dreaming about this list, so let’s get it out of my dreams and on the blog:

510smylYevL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Ford, Mathea A., RD (Registered Dietician) Kidney Disease: Common Labs and Medical Terminology: The Patient’s Perspective (Renal Diet HQ IQ Pre-Dialysis Living) (Volume 4)

New to kidney failure? Have no idea what your physician just said about your kidneys? Kidney disease labs and terminology can quite often be a challenge to understand and digest. Did your doctor use the “stages of kidney disease”? Did you physician refer to “eGFR”? What does all this mean for your health and future with kidney disease, lifestyle and nutrition choices. This book is the basic platform for understanding all the common labs and terminology that your doctors and nurses will use. This book with give you and your caregivers the confidence to manage your condition knowing that you have an understanding of all the ins and outs of the nephrology jargon. (Mrs. Mathea seems to have an entire series of books about CKD.)

Hunt, Walter A. Kidney Disease: A Guide for Living. 

When Hunt learned he had kidney disease, he was overwhelmed by the prospect of facing kidney failure. He had so many questions: Why are my kidneys failing? Is there anything I can do to save them? How will I know when my kidneys have failed? What will it feel like? 41nNk5SdqIL._AA160_What treatments are available for me? Is there a cure for kidney failure? The good news, as Hunt found out, is that kidney failure is highly treatable. People with the disease can lead full and productive lives, and Hunt’s readable and empathetic book will help them do just that. It discusses the latest scientific and medical findings about kidney disease, including what kidneys do; the underlying diseases that cause failure; diagnosis, treatment, and prevention; dietary factors; clinical trials; and the future direction of research on kidney failure. Kidney disease is difficult, but as Hunt’s narrative reveals, people living with it can take control of their health and their future. By understanding kidney failure — what causes it, how it may affect their lives, and what treatment options they have — people with the disease can improve their quality of life and achieve the best possible outcome.

51nUIkG8kSL._AA160_Lewis, Dr. Robert. Understanding Chronic Kidney Disease: A guide for the Non-Specialist.

This is meant for primary care physicians, but can be easily understood by the layman. I looked under the covers of this one and was delighted to see that the information we, as patients with CKD, need to know is also what our primary care physicians need to know. (I wrote this description.)

National Kidney Foundation of Southern California. Living Well With Kidney Disease.

The first edition of “Living Well With Kidney Disease” was developed and published by the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California. Based on the handbook “When Your Kidneys Fail” (originally published in 1982), this new and 41jxZoYLGzL._AA160_updated edition provides detailed information specifically intended for people coping with Kidney Disease and other renal failure, as well as their friends and families. The question and answer format provides a clear and manageable guide for those seeking support and answers. Among the topics covered are the principles of kidney function, methods of treatment, transplantation, and financial resources available to patients. With all of the ramifications of kidney failure and the rise of Chronic Kidney Disease and Type 2 Diabetes, there is a growing population of people afflicted with kidney failure. Although it was written with the patient in mind, family members, friends and health care professionals will also find this handbook a valuable resource.

517GaXFXNPL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Synder, Rich DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) What You Must Know About Kidney Disease: A Practical Guide to Using Conventional and Complementary Treatments

The book is divided into three parts. Part One provides an overview of the kidneys’ structure and function, as well as common kidney disorders. It also guides you in asking your doctor questions that will help you better understand both status and prognosis. Part Two examines kidney problems and their conventional treatments. Part Three provides an in depth look at the most effective complementary treatments, from lifestyle changes to alternative healing methods. The diagnosis of kidney disease is the first step of an unexpected journey.

*Yes, this is the same Dr. Rich Snyder who interviewed me on his radio show twice since What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease was published.

It’s always hard to find good books about CKD that non-medical personnel can understand.  I hope this four (and mine!) help you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about your diagnosis.

Here’s a little hint about your own health.  I’m back to no sweets or desserts and, I hate to admit it, but I’m feeling better.  Don’t you just hate when that happens?sugar

Until next week (when I’ll in in Culver City for a weekend of Landmark),

Keep living your life!

Dragon in the New Year

firworksThe New Year is creeping up on us…again. It happens every year and I’m surprised by it every year. This year I decided that instead of looking forward to the New Year to start my new projects as usual, I would end the old year with one of those projects.

By that I mean I’m dictating this blog with the Dragon Dictation Program that Bear got for me last Christmas. It scared me. I think I may be a little technophobic, but I’m finally getting comfortable with it. I tentatively tried it on my phone almost immediately. That worked, so I even more tentatively tried on my iPad almost 6 months later. Now I’m ready for the big time: the computer. And there you have it; I am now blogging with Dragon.dragon-logo

I was trying to figure out what would be a good end-of-the-year topic and kept getting the same vision of a heart. Unusual, I thought, since this is not a feel good blog. In fact, it’s sometimes downright scary. Then I remembered that the heart pumps blood and there needs to be some pressure for that. Of course! The last blog of 2013 would be about blood pressure, a topic that’s been bandied around quite a bit in the medical field lately.

blood pressure 300dpi jpgThe year was new when Jane Brody of the New York Times wrote, “48% of more than 76 million adults with hypertension have it under control up from 29% in 2000.” That sounds terrific, especially since normal blood pressure was considered lower than 120/80 at the time. You can read more about this now outdated information in her still informative article Keeping Blood Pressure in Check at http://well.blogs.ny times.com/2013/01/28/keeping-blood-pressure-in-check.

Why is this outdated information? Good question. Less than two weeks ago the 8th Joint National Committee announced via the Journal of the American medical Association (JAMA), that the guidelines for hypertension (high blood pressure) have changed. Keep in mind that hypertension can lead to cardiovascular problems and kidney failure.

The new acceptable levels are 150 (systolic) over 90 (diastolic) for people over 60. The big news for people with diabetes or kidney disease – like us – who were considered to have hypertension at 130/80 is that it has shifted to 140/90. This means that those of us who depression-cause-heart-attack-1have been taking hypertension medication because we have chronic kidney disease and were trying to stay below 130/80 can now go up to 140/90 without the medication and as high as 150/90 if we’re over 60. Personally, I don’t want to take the chance.

Apparently many doctors agree with me. Dr. Mariell L. Jessop, president of the American Heart Association, says she’s worried about public reaction. As the medical director of the Pennsylvania Heart and Vascular Center, Doctor Jessop said, “I just get anxious when people hear that they don’t need as much medicine and they can allow their blood pressure to drift up.”  You can read more about this at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/new-blood-pressure-guidelines-raise-concern-among-heart-health-groups/2013/12/26/eaa6c73e-6e3d-11e3-b405-7e360f7e9fd2_story.html.

But the American Society of Hematology (which means blood) and the international Society of Hematology have their own guidelines.  According to these two groups, the acceptance of 150/90 for older patients should start at age 80, not 60. There also seems to be a difference in the drugs that they recommend. These differences led the ASH/ISH authors to proclaim “Because of the major differences in resources among points of care it is not possible to create a uniform set of guidelines. For this reason we written a broad statement… and we expect that experts who are familiar with local circumstances will feel free to use their own judgment.”  This does not add to my comfort at the thought of allowing my blood pressure to rise. Those of you who are willing to get a little more technical in your reading you can find this article at www. Medscape.com/view article/818080.

So here we have the first new sets of guidelines for acceptable blood pressure numbers since 1997 and they don’t exactly agree with each other. Let’s make matters worse for the layman. It also turns out that your blood pressure can vary as much as 20 degrees during the same day depending upon circumstances, food intake and the timing of that intake, and physical exertion. This actually makes a lot of sense to me.

Take heart (there’s that image again), as confusing as this might be I discovered something that could really be helpful at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-03/aha-FO P030 413.php. The American Heart Association has a program called Heart360 in which patients send their daily blood pressure numbers to the health providers directly from their home blood pressure machines.  54% of the Heart360 home monitoring group reached their blood pressure goals after only six weeks as opposed to 35% of the group that was treated in the usual way: diagnosed, education about managing high blood pressure, and the importance of diet and exercise. While the first group received the same information, it seems to be the added monitoring that helped more people succeed.

Talking about the heart, many thanks to step-daughter Kelly and her fiancé Sean for hosting our annual Christmas Eve dinner.  More than half the food was CKD friendly, a specific effort on the part of the cooks (Sean, Kelly, and Lara) for which I am extremely grateful. I’m talking steamed green beans in pureed cauliflower, roasted peppers and what tasted like low sodium turnkey.

IMAG0269 (1)Lara’s love came up with the idea of a Secret Santa since we’re up to seven attending this event each year and it was getting pretty pricey for each of us to gift everyone else.  Since my giftee ended up not being able to attend, I was able to give each household a high heeled ceramic shoe which was a wine holder.  Fast thinking on my part, wasn’t it.  And I gave each of the two cats and four dogs in the family presents.  No one said anything about the animals!

I’ve been corresponding with Amazon’s European sites to correct a book image problem and it’s been a hoot!  The funniest was my attempt to communicate with the French site in French.  They ended up working with the wrong book.  My fault entirely.  I switched to English pretty fast.Book Cover

Oh my, this is the last time in 2013 that I get to write:

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

‘Twas The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

Christmas Tree’Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the house…. The night before the night before Christmas?  Where did the time go? Hmmmm, there are no children here to constantly remind us Christmas is coming.  We rarely watch television (although we often watch movies), so we didn’t see the ads that could have reminded us.  Oh, I did know it was coming… just not so quickly.

And that’s often the case when we deal with a chronic illness.  We know that doctor’s appointment is coming up and we’re eager to see the results of our blood tests.  After all, we’ve worked so hard on diet, exercise, sleep, and lack of stress (that’s funny: stressing for lack of stress).  We just didn’t know it was coming so quickly. Did we have enough time to lower our blood pressure?  Was it enough time to lose some weight?  Did we monitor our eating enough in this amount of time that our cholesterol numbers are down?  Time, time, time.  It all comes down to time.

I have a modest proposal (apologies there, Mr. Swift).  What if we ignore time and just always – okay, almost always – watch the diet, exercise, sleep enough, and avoid stress.  Oh right, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing: lifestyle changes.NAFLD

According to an article published in the European Journal of Social Psychology way back in September of 2009, it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. The article was written by Phillippa Lally and her colleagues from the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre based at UCL Epidemiology and Public Health, and was based on their research.  You can find more at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0908/09080401

Since it’s habits that form your life style, I had trouble accepting that number so I kept researching.  Ugh, I kept coming up with the same number although one analysis of this same article did mention that it can take as few as 18 or as many as 254 days to form a habit depending upon the individual.  I’ll take the 18 days option, please.

All right, let’s try something else.  How about getting enough sleep.  How much sleep is enough sleep anyway?  According to Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler on the Mayo Clinic site (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/AN01487), seven to eight hours is what an adult needs, but then he lists mitigating circumstances under which you might need more:

  • Pregnancy.      Changes in a woman’s body during early pregnancy can increase the need for      sleep.
  • Aging.      Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults. As you      get older, however, your sleeping patterns might change. Older adults tend      to sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans than do younger adults.      This might create a need for spending more time in bed to get enough      sleep, or a tendency toward daytime napping.
  • Previous      sleep deprivation. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you      need increases.
  • Sleep      quality. If your sleep is frequently interrupted or cut short, you’re      not getting quality sleep. The quality of your sleep is just as important      as the quantity.

Victorian clockThose first two weeks after Bear’s surgery when I was his caretaker, I rarely enjoyed more than two hours of sleep at a time and there seemed to be no difference between day and night.  I’m not saying this would be true for everyone, but we paid for it dearly.  I ended up in the emergency room needing a breathing treatment to relieve the bronchial symptoms that were making it so difficult to breathe and I just may have brought home a virus for Bear who soon started running a high fever. We were both run down from lack of sleep.  Of course, Bear was already in recuperative mode, but we proved to me how very important sleep is.

When I was first diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease almost six years ago, the value of exercise was brought home again and again by my nephrologist.  Until I researched for What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I wasn’t clear about why this was important.  This is what I discovered:

I knew exercise was important to control my weight.  It would also improve my blood pressure and lower my cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The greater your triglycerides, the greater the risk of increasing your creatinine.  There were other benefits, too, although you didn’t have to have CKD to enjoy them: better sleep, and improved muscle function and strength. But, as with everything else you do that might impinge upon your health, check with your doctor before you start exercising.

I researched, researched and researched again.  Each explanation of what exercise does for the body was more complicated than the last one I read.  Keeping it simple, basically, there’s a compound released by voluntary muscle contraction.  It tells the body to repair itself and grow stronger. The idea is to start exercising slowly and then intensity your activity.exercising silhouette

Okay, so we know during that 66 days to form a habit, seven to eight hours a night of sleep is one of the habits we should be forming and half an hour of exercise daily is another.  Might as well throw in following the renal diet and avoiding stress as two other habits to get into.  However, considering how long this blog is already, those are topics for another blog.  Who knows?  Maybe even next week’s blog.

KindleAmazon is offering the book in many different countries as well as ours.  It’s also offering the Kindle MatchBook in each of these countries.  Remember?  That’s the program that allows you to buy the digital edition at a 70% discount if you’ve EVER bought a print copy of the book from them.  Why mention it yet again?  It just occurred to me that you can gift the newly diagnosed, their friends and/or family in many different countries! And for those who asked, yes, the book is available on B&N.com, but their digital reader is The Nook, not the Kindle, so there’s no MatchBook discount program on this site.

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Kwanzaa if those are the holidays you celebrate.  Oh my!  Just one more 2013 blog. I think I’ll go back to the earliest ones from this year to see how varied they are.  I’ll bet there’s more than one about the health benefits of coffee.Book signing

By the way, there has been some controversy about the authorship of the poem from which I played upon for the title of this blog, but I’m more than willing to accept Clement Moore as the author of “ ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.”

Until next year,

Keep living your life!

Back to D

Those of you who know me personally know that this blog is a vacation for me right now.  Between Bear’s back issues, Nima’s upcoming gallbladder removal {that’s one way to rid yourself of a stone, aching backHmmm, that’s not funny, is it?} and my macula degeneration {which I persist in mispronouncing as macula conception for some reason}, it’s good to get back to D.  Vitamin D, that is.  Even more information piled up on my desk about it this week and that’s after not having enough room in last week’s blog to incorporate all the information I had at that point.

The following definition is from MedlinePlus @http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002405.htm.  This is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine  From the National Institutes of HealthNational Institutes of Health which I trust and often cite in the blog:

“Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation. Throughout childhood, your body uses these minerals to produce bones. If you do not get enough calcium, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from your diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer.Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis in adults or rickets in children.”

So, as adults, we basically need vitamin D to keep our bones healthy, although it does perform other functions such as “regulates calcium and phosphorous blood levels … affects the immune system.” This last definition is from the glossary of What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. By the way, thank you for keeping the sales going.  Every time I sell a book, it means another one I can donate. {Amazon.com or B&N.com. for digital or print.  Email me at: myckdexperience.com if you’d like a signed copy.}

I did manage to find out why my former nephrologist recommended supplemental vitamin D for me.  If he’d been as quick to answer the more important questions I had when I was his patient, he vit dmight not have become my former nephrologist.  But I do have to admit that as a newly diagnosed patient, I did not leave the poor man alone nor was I gentle in my demands for answers.  By the way, he was impressively gracious when I apologized for that behavior.

Apparently, vitamin D is routinely recommended for those over 60 since – statistically speaking – more than half the people in this age group have a vitamin D deficiency. Once you are tested, the level of the vitamin D in your blood determines whether you will be advised to take a low or high dose supplement. While the normal acceptable range is 30 to 100 {depending upon which lab you use}, mine was 29 back in 2009 when I started taking the supplements.  It did go up to 31 six months later. I still take the supplements to make certain it stays within range. 31 is so low in the acceptable range. I didn’t see it on any of this year’s lab results and intend to rectify that on my next lab date in two weeks.

As you know, I rarely write about children.  However, I noticed a MedPage Today article last week that suggested “There was an association between lower vitamin D levels and worse clinical outcome” in the need for pediatric heart-lung bypass.  It was far too technical for me, but you may want to take a look for yourself – especially since the article mentions pediatric studies “linking vitamin D deficiency with a number of condition such as asthma, acute respiratory infection, and cardiomyopathy {e.g. disease of the heart muscle}, as well as organ dysfunction and length of stay in the pediatric intensive care unit.” The address is: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Cardiology/HeartTransplanation/40384.

The day before the above article ran, MedPage Today ran another article discussing why low vitamin D levels in whites can lead to a heart risk, but the same low vitamin D levels don’t lead to heart risks in Blacks or Hispanics. I especially like Dr. Keith Norris’s comment on this “…reinforces what we’re seeing in medicine, [which] is a push toward personalized medicine where we’re really looking beyond what happens to a whole group of people, but how do we understand what’s happening at more [of] an individual level.” In other words, a person is a person is a person – even when it comes to their health.  You’ll find this one at: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Endocrinology/GeneralEndocrinology/40368races

MedPage Today seems to be carrying the blog today.  While there was no risk of heart disease due to low levels of vitamin D in Blacks, supplements could possibly lower blood pressure just a bit in Blacks.  So, if you don’t take them for one reason, you take them for another, I guess.  The researchers themselves are not certain, however, whether this study was long enough to prove anything. Still, I found it interesting and you might, too:  http://www.medpagetoday.com/Cardiology/Hypertension?38398.

Before you get down in the mouth about this information, let’s talk about vitamin D in kidney patients and gum disease {Get it? Down in the mouth? Gum disease? Oh well.} This time, the information is specifically for those with chronic kidney disease (hello!). According to Dr. Jessica Bastos back in April of this year, “This association seems to be mediated through an impairment in clearing bacterial infection due to a decrease in cathelicidin {e.g. antimicrobial polypeptides} production.” There is a purported correlation between low levels of vitamin D and low levels of cathelicidin production.  I don’t know about you, but I intend to print the blog and check that I took my vitamin D today.  My dentist is a nice guy, but this is my mouth we’re talking about. Take a gander: http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/NKF/38254.

I have many more articles in front of me, so I’m going to simply list the areas in which low vitamin D is involved:Book signing

  • cardiovascular
  • chronic kidney disease {the purpose of this blog, lest we forget}
  • health hip fracture risk
  • hepatitis B {Have you decided to take the inoculation against this?}
  • hypertension
  • stroke

Got how dangerous low levels of vitamin D can be?  Good.  Be ready to be confounded.  Another study links low levels of vitamin D with long life.  The  studies suggest, ” that low serum levels of vitamin D are a consequence rather than a cause of disease,” according to its authors.  This is a must read: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Genetics/GeneralGenetics/35767.

Wow, this could have been a four part blog.  Let’s hope you’re confused enough about the benefits {or lack thereof} of vitamin D supplementation to do a little research of your own.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!