This Former Hippy Wannabe Likes HIPAA

Each day, I post a tidbit about, or relating to, Chronic Kidney Disease on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page. This is the quote from Renal and Urology News that I posted just a short while ago:

“Patients with stage 3 and 4 chronic kidney disease (CKD) who were managed by nephrology in addition to primary care experienced greater monitoring for progression and complications, according to a new study.”

My primary care physician is the one who caught my CKD in the first place and is very careful about monitoring its progress. My nephrologist is pleased with that and feels he only needs to see me once a year. The two of them work together well.

From the comments on that post, I realized this is not usual. One of my readers suggested it had to do with HIPPA, so I decided to look into that.

The California Department of Health Care Services (Weird, I know, but I liked their simple explanation.) at http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/laws/hipaa/Pages/1.00WhatisHIPAA.aspx defined HIPPA and its purposes in the following way:

“HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. HIPAA does the following:

• Provides the ability to transfer and continue health insurance coverage for millions of American workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs;
• Reduces health care fraud and abuse;
• Mandates industry-wide standards for health care information on electronic billing and other processes; and
• Requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information”

Got it. Let’s take a look at its last purpose. There is an infogram from HealthIT.gov at https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/YourHealthInformationYourRights_Infographic-Web.pdf  which greatly clarifies the issue. On item on this infogram caught my eye:

“You hold the key to your health information and can send or have it sent to anyone you want. Only send your health information to someone you trust.”

I always send mine to one of my daughters and Bear… and my other doctors if they are not part of the hospital system most of my doctors belong to.

I stumbled across National Conference of State Legislatures at http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/hipaa-a-state-related-overview.aspx and learned more than I even knew existed about HIPAA. Take a look if you’d like more information. I finally tore myself away from the site to get back to writing the blog after following links for about an hour. It was fascinating, but not germane to today’s blog.

Okay, so sharing. In order to share the information from one doctor that my other doctors may not have, I simply fill out an Authorization to Release Medical Information form. A copy of this is kept in the originating doctor’s files. By the way, it is legal for the originating doctor to charge $.75/page for each page sent, but none of my doctors have ever done so.

I know, I know. What is this about doctors being part of the hospital system? What hospital system? When I first looked for a new physician since the one I had been using was so far away (Over the usual half-an-hour-to-get-anywhere-in-Arizona rule), I saw that my new PCP’s practice was affiliated with the local hospital and thought nothing of it.

Then Electronic Health Records came into widespread use at this hospital. Boom! Any doctor associated with that hospital – and that’s all but two of my myriad doctors – instantly had access to my health records. Wow, no more requesting hard copies of my health records from each doctor, making copies for all my other doctors, and then hand delivering or mailing them. No wonder I’m getting lazy; life is so much easier.

Back to HealthIt.gov for more about EHR. This time at https://www.healthit.gov/buzz-blog/electronic-health-and-medical-records/emr-vs-ehr-difference/:

“With fully functional EHRs, all members of the team have ready access to the latest information allowing for more coordinated, patient-centered care. With EHRs:

• The information gathered by the primary care provider tells the emergency department clinician about the patient’s life threatening allergy, so that care can be adjusted appropriately, even if the patient is unconscious.
• A patient can log on to his own record and see the trend of the lab results over the last year, which can help motivate him to take his medications and keep up with the lifestyle changes that have improved the numbers.
• The lab results run last week are already in the record to tell the specialist what she needs to know without running duplicate tests.
• The clinician’s notes from the patient’s hospital stay can help inform the discharge instructions and follow-up care and enable the patient to move from one care setting to another more smoothly.”

Did you notice the part about what a patient can do? With my patient portal, I can check my labs, ask questions, schedule an appointment, obtain information about medications, and spot trends in my labs. Lazy? Let’s make that even lazier. No more appointments for trivial questions, no more leaving phone messages, no more being on hold for too long. I find my care is quicker, more accessible to me, and – believe it or not – more easily understood since I am a visual, rather than an audial, person.

Kudos to American Association of Kidney Patients for postponing their National Patient Meeting in St. Petersburg from last weekend to this coming spring. The entire state of Florida was declared in a state of emergency by the governor due to the possible impact of Hurricane Irma. The very next day, AAKP acted to postpone placing the safety of its members over any monetary considerations. If I wasn’t proud to be a member before (and I was), I certainly am now.

Aha! That gives me five found days to separate The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 each into two separate books with indexes. I never was happy with the formatting of those two. I plan to reward myself after this project. How, you ask. By writing a book of short stories. I surmise that will be out next year sometime. Meanwhile, there’s always Portal in Time, a time travel romance. Geesh! Sometimes I wonder at all my plans.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

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I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

How many times have you said this (before your diagnose) to those who told you to slow down, take it easier, don’t rush so, take some time for yourself, etc.? As a younger person, I was a high school teacher, an actor, a writer, and – most importantly – a mother, actually a single mother once my daughters were double digit aged.

Guess what. You may sleep when you’re dead, but you need to sleep now before you hasten the time to your death. What’s that? You get enough sleep? I thought I did, too, but I wasn’t getting the kind of sleep I needed.

Why do we need sleep anyway? I turned to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 for some answers. The first reason I stumbled across was in an article from The Journal of The American Society of Nephrologists:

“Hermida tells WebMD that some of the body’s blood pressure control systems are most active while we sleep. So medicines designed to control those systems work better when taken close to the time when the systems are activated most fully.”

Ramon C. Hermida, PhD is the director of the bioengineering and chronobiology labs at the University of Vigo in Spain.

Hmmm, I take medication for hypertension… and I take it at night. I see that I need to sleep for it to work most effectively. I’ve known this for years and written about it. The point is you may need to know about it.

Then I started wondering if I were correct in the amount of sleep I thought I needed. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 was helpful here:

“How much sleep is enough sleep anyway? According to Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler of The Mayo Clinic site, 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.”

While I’m not pregnant (and will become a medical miracle if I become pregnant), all the other circumstances do apply to me. During Shiva after my brother’s death, there was very, very little sleeping going on. Hence, sleep deprivation. I’m aging and my sleep quality is not great right now. Those are my circumstances, but they could be yours. Are you getting enough sleep?

Sometimes, simply having Chronic Kidney Disease can be the source of sleep problems. This is something I’ve written about several times. Here’s an excerpt from SlowItDownCKD 2015 about just that:

“We’ve known for a long time that sleep disorders are more common in kidney disease patients than in the general population,” Charles Atwood, MD, associate director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sleep Medicine Center in Pennsylvania, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Medscape Medical News. “A lot of studies in the past focused on the dialysis population. It seems like this group focused on people with milder degrees of kidney disease and basically found that they also have sleep disorders and I’m not surprised by that,” he added.

You can read the entire article at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/805342, although you will have to register for a free account.

By digging deep, far and wide, I finally figured out that toxic waste buildup in our systems (from the imperfect blood filtering by our kidneys) could be the cause of my segmented sleep. I took a comment from one study, a sentence from another, and unilaterally decided this was the reason. I am not a doctor – as I keep saying – and I don’t have the facts I’d like to behind this conclusion….”

Oh, right: you need a definition of segmented sleep. Wikipedia provides one:

“Segmented sleep, also known as divided sleep, bimodal sleep pattern, bifurcated sleep, or interrupted sleep, is a polyphasic or biphasic sleep pattern where two or more periods of sleep are punctuated by periods of wakefulness.”

The National Institutes of Health at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why sums up our need for sleep beautifully:

“Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.”

I think I need to go to sleep now.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Long Term, Short, and your Heart

I received some comments about Acute Kidney Disease (AKI) in the midst of all the support after last week’s blog. It seems this is a new topic for so many of us. By us I mean Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients. I know at stage 3, my nephrologist never brought this up to me.

Ah, but I remembered this from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

On the very first page of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I wrote “…chronic is not acute. It means long term, whereas acute usually means quick onset and short duration.”

All those years of teaching English in high school and college paid off for me right there in that sentence.

I’d always thought that AKI and CKD were separate issues and I’ll bet you did, too. But Dr. L.S. Chawla and his co-writers based the following conclusion on the labor of epidemiologists and others. (Note: Dr. Chawla et al wrote a review article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014.)

“Chronic Kidney Disease is a risk factor for acute kidney injury, acute kidney injury is a risk factor for the development of Chronic Kidney Disease, and both acute kidney injury and Chronic Kidney Disease are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.” …

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

It makes sense, as researchers and doctors are beginning to see, that these are all connected. I’m not a doctor or a researcher, but I can understand that if you’ve had some kind of insult to your kidney, it would be more apt to develop CKD.

And the CVD risk? Let’s think of it this way. You’ve had AKI. That period of weakness in the kidneys opens them up to CKD. We already know there’s a connection between CKD and CVD. Throw that AKI into the mix, and you have more of a chance to develop CVD whether or not you’ve had a problem in this area before. Let’s not go off the deep end here. If you’ve had AKI, you just need to be monitored to see if CKD develops and avoid nephrotoxic {Kidney poisoning} medications such as NSAIDS… contrast dyes, and radioactive substances. This is just so circular!

As with CKD, your hypertension and diabetes {If you have them.} need to be monitored, too. Then there’s the renal diet, especially low sodium foods. The kicker here is that no one knows if this is helpful in avoiding CKD after an AKI… it’s a ‘just in case’ kind of thing to help ward off any CKD and possible CVD from the CKD.

Has your primary care doctor recommended a daily low dose aspirin with your nephrologist’s approval? This is to protect your heart against CVD since you already have CKD which raises the risk of CVD. Now here’s where it gets confusing, the FDA has recently revoked its endorsement of such a regiment.

Let’s see what more we can find out about this dastardly triumvirate.

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/AcuteKidneyInjury offers this information about AKI.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden episode of kidney failure or kidney damage that happens within a few hours or a few days. AKI causes a build-up of waste products in your blood and makes it hard for your kidneys to keep the right balance of fluid in your body. AKI can also affect other organs such as the brain, heart, and lungs. Acute kidney injury is common in patients who are in the hospital, in intensive care units, and especially in older adults.

You did catch that it can affect the heart, right?

Well, what about the heart and its diseases?

This is from the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/basics/definition/con-20034056.

The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.”

Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.

Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.

Maybe a reminder of what CKD is will help, too. WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/chronic-kidney-disease-topic-overview#1 offers this simple, comprehensive explanation.

Having chronic kidney disease means that for some time your kidneys have not been working the way they should. Your kidneys have the important job of filtering your blood. They remove waste products and extra fluid and flush them from your body as urine. When your kidneys don’t work right, wastes build up in your blood and make you sick.

Chronic kidney disease may seem to have come on suddenly. But it has been happening bit by bit for many years as a result of damage to your kidneys.

Each of your kidneys has about a million tiny filters, called nephrons. If nephrons are damaged, they stop working. For a while, healthy nephrons can take on the extra work. But if the damage continues, more and more nephrons shut down. After a certain point, the nephrons that are left cannot filter your blood well enough to keep you healthy.

My head is spinning. One could – or could not – lead to another which, in turn, could – or could not – lead to the third. There’s no strict order and there’s no way of knowing until you actually have it. My layperson’s suggestion? Take good care of your kidneys.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Singapore Knows CKD

I have an online friend, Leong Seng Chen, who lives in Singapore and is highly active in the Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness community there. Last week, I asked if any readers would like to see certain organizations that weren’t already there added to the blogroll – the list of CKD organizations to the right of the blog itself. He mentioned two but one was a Facebook page and the other was for dialysis. I usually write a blog about current Facebook pages once a year and don’t usually write about dialysis.

His request, which I couldn’t honor, got me to thinking about what is going on for CKD patients in Singapore. So, I started poking around.

The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (of all places!) looked into this in 2008, a decade ago, and published the following at http://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/3/2/610.full.

The NKF Singapore Prevention Program presents a unique approach that incorporates a comprehensive multilevel strategy to address chronic kidney disease …. What makes the NKF Singapore program different is that it incorporated a public health approach to preventing ESRD by using primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention initiatives that can intervene at several stages in the progression of kidney disease. These include 1) surveillance of the general population for urinary abnormalities, 2) screening of the general population for clinical conditions that increase the risk of chronic kidney disease, such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, 3) the institution of a disease management program to facilitate the management of patients with diabetes and hypertension, which are among the leading causes of ESRD in the country, and to a limited extent, 4) tracking of the individuals who participate in the screening program. Thus, both population-based and high-risk prevention strategies were incorporated into the Singapore Prevention Program.

If you think about it for a moment, this is an astoundingly comprehensive approach to awareness, prevention, and treatment.

I was intrigued and looked further. This chart is from Health Exchange/Singapore at https://www.healthxchange.sg/digestive-system/kidney/chronic-kidney-disease-singapore-stats-prevention-tips. As you can see, it includes statistics up to (and including) 2012. That’s still half a decade ago.

I had naively assumed the National Kidney Foundation was an American organization. Here, in the United States, it is. There, in Singapore, it’s a Singaporean organization.

In Singapore, CKD awareness is not just an adult undertaking. There is a bus provided by the NKF that goes to schools, among other places, to educate young children about how to prevent and recognize the disease, as well as what the kidneys do. Somehow, I found that charming and necessary simultaneously. Why don’t we do that in the United States, I wonder. Take a look at https://www.nkfs.org/kidney-health-education-bus/ to see for yourself what I’m talking about here.

The National Registry of Disease Office was founded by the Ministry of Health in 2001. While the most current statistics I could find, they only record Chronic Kidney Failure, or End Stage Chronic Renal Disease (ESRD). According to their website at https://www.nrdo.gov.sg/about-us,

We are responsible for:
● collecting the data and maintaining the registry on reportable health conditions and diseases that have been diagnosed and treated in Singapore
● publishing reports on these health conditions and diseases
● providing information to support national public health policies, healthcare services and programmes

Meanwhile, the statistics from Global Disease Burden Healthgrove are only four years old and give us a better understanding of what’s happening in Singapore as far as CKD. You can choose different filters at http://global-disease-burden.healthgrove.com/l/67148/Chronic-Kidney-Disease-in-Singapore

As they phrase it: These risk factors contributed to, and were thought to be responsible for, an estimated 100% of the total deaths caused by chronic kidney disease in Singapore during 2013.

I hadn’t been aware of just how involved with CKD Singapore is until Leong started telling me. Now, I’m astounded to learn that this country is number four in deaths from our disease.

Just as in the United States, Singapore posts lists of nephrologists, herbal aids, hospital studies, and even medical tourism sites. While I may or may not approve of such listings, they have opened my eyes to the fact that Singapore plays with the big boys when it comes to CKD. Come to think of it, they may even be more developed when it comes to educating the public. Remember those education buses?

Many thanks to Leong Seng Chen, my CKD friend on Facebook this past year and- hopefully – many more years to come.

On another topic entirely, winning a place in Healthline’s Top Six Kidney Disease Blogs two years in a row spurred me on to finally rework both The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 and 2 into something more manageable: each book will be divided into two books with their own indexes and renamed SlowItDownCKD and the year. Right now I’m working on SlowItDownCKD 2011. Hey, let’s hold the cheering down there.

In addition, all the Kindle versions of each of the SlowItDownCKD books are now $2.99 in order make them more accessible to more people. I’m working on lowering the price for the print books too, but that seems to be more complicated…or maybe I just don’t understand the process yet. I would stick to Amazon.com since B & N.com simply never responds to my attempts to lower the price on any of my books.

By the way, have you heard about this from AAKP? (You can read more about it on their website.)

AAKP has been in the news and across social media lately as public interest continues to build in KidneyWorks – a groundbreaking national initiative we developed in full collaboration with our partners at the Medical Education Institute (MEI). The multiphase initiative aims to identify and address barriers to continued employment for individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Phase I of KidneyWorks involved a consensus roundtable of national experts on kidney disease and workforce experts who convened in Washington, D.C. and the development and public release of a White Paper detailing strategies to help working-age people with non-dialysis chronic kidney disease (CKD) improve their lives, slow CKD progression, and keep their jobs. Phases II and III will involve the development, production and dissemination of strategies and online and mobile tools that help workers, caregivers and employers help achieve the goals of KidneyWorks.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Updated

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Stats

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Two Masters

A friend of mine, the one I mentioned when I wrote about renal sally ports, recently has had a relapse. Yep, he neglected to take his medications at the proper times. That can cause havoc for mental illness, especially bipolar disorder. It got me to thinking. What if my friend had Chronic Kidney Disease AND bipolar disease? How could he handle both diagnoses at the same time?

Let’s start at the beginning. There are certain drugs I take in the hopes of delaying dialysis as long as possible. One of those is the ACE Inhibitor I’d been taking for hypertension for about two decades before I was even diagnosed with CKD. Here’s the definition from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease: “ACE Inhibitor: A blood pressure medication that lowers protein in the urine if you have CKD.”

It works by both relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the blood volume. This, in turn, lowers your blood pressure which, in turn, lowers your heart’s oxygen needs. And the problem for my friend would be? Well, maybe just remembering to take the medication each day.

However, according to MedicineNet.com at http://www.medicinenet.com/ace_inhibitors/page2.htm,
The most common side effects are:
• Cough
• Elevated blood potassium levels
• Low blood pressure
• Dizziness
• Headache
• Drowsiness
• Weakness
• Abnormal taste (metallic or salty taste)
• Rash
• Chest pain
• Increased uric acid levels
• Sun sensitivity
• Increased BUN and creatinine levels

Did you notice increased uric acid levels, and increased BUN and creatinine levels? This could be a dicey medication for CKD patients if they did not heed their doctor’s advice once (s)he has evaluated the patient’s labs. That’s the problem here: not having the ability to be a compliant patient during a bipolar episode.

I was also prescribed a drug for cholesterol, a statin. This drug inhibits (the word of the day) an enzyme in the liver that produces lipids. As reported in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1:
According to Dr. Dr. Robert Provenzano, chief of nephrology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, “…LDL, bad cholesterol, directly impacts acceleration of Chronic Kidney Disease.” One of the possible side effects is of this drug is Type 2 Diabetes. All I can say about that is thank goodness these side effects are not the norm.

Here’s the problem: statins have to be taken at night. That’s when the body produces cholesterol. Again, can my friend be compliant during an episode? What about the drugs he already takes? Are they going to somehow interfere with these common drugs for CKD?

Lithium is the usual drug for him. This is from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:
“There were two Plenary Sessions I attended at the Southwest Nephrology Conference I attended last weekend. It was at the second one, ‘Psychiatric issues in kidney patients’ that I suddenly sprang to attention. What was this man saying? Something about lithium doubling the risk for Chronic Kidney Disease? And I was off… how many psychiatric patients knew that fact? How many of their caretakers knew that just in case the patient was not responsible at the time of treatment? What about children? Did their parents know? Was a screening for CKD performed BEFORE lithium was prescribed?”

Kidney.org at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lithium has me downright frightened for my friend:

“What is lithium?
Lithium is a common medicine used to help calm mood for treating people with mental disorders. Since such disorders need lifelong treatment, long-term use of lithium may be harmful to organs, such as the kidneys.

How does lithium cause kidney damage?
Lithium may cause problems with kidney health. Kidney damage due to lithium may include acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term) kidney disease and kidney cysts. The amount of kidney damage depends on how long you have been taking lithium. It is possible to reverse kidney damage caused by lithium early in treatment, but the damage may become permanent over time.

What is nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?
The most common problem from taking lithium is a form of diabetes due to kidney damage called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. This type of diabetes is different than diabetes mellitus caused by high blood sugar. In nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, the kidneys cannot respond to anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), a chemical messenger that controls fluid balance. This results in greater than normal urine out-put and excessive thirst. It can be hard to treat nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.”

I keep reminding myself that the word “may” appears over and over again. Yet, since my friend either wasn’t taking his medication at all or not taking it as prescribed, it wasn’t working…and he is still at risk for CKD.

I found this tidbit on Drugs.com at https://www.drugs.com/interactions-check.php?drug_list=1477-0,1489-0, ACE Inhibitors: “…may increase the blood levels and effects of lithium. You may need a dose adjustment or more frequent monitoring by your doctor to safely use both medications.” Wait. So you need an ACE Inhibitor if you have CKD, but it can interfere with the lithium you take if you’re bi-polar. And statins? While I couldn’t find any interactions, I did find the caution that there may be some and to check with your doctor. I am aware he takes an anti-depressant, but in researching, have discovered there are many that are safe to take with CKD.

My friend usually goes to his medical appointments, but he neglects to mention certain symptoms and sometimes has trouble telling reality from non-reality. Does he know whether his doctor has warned him about the higher risk of CKD or not? Does he know that he may develop a form of diabetes from long term use of lithium? Does he know that if even one of his parents has CKD, his risk is doubled yet again?

Tomorrow is July 4th, the day the United States celebrates its independence from the tyranny of England. Where is my friend’s independence from the tyranny of his mental illness? The English and the United States have learned to peacefully share our existences (right, English readers?). Here’s hoping my friend can learn to peacefully share his existence with bipolar disorder… and CKD should he develop it. Heaven forbid.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Gluten Free

“…I started GF mid-April & my June lab work showed significant improvement. My next lab work is not until August, but I feel & look so much better, and because my BP dropped so much, my nephrologist took me off hydrochlorothorozide and reduced irbesartan from 300 to 75.” This is a small part of the message I received from a reader… and it intrigued me.

I take hydrochlorothiazide.  I know I looked it up at the time it was prescribed, something about fluid. Hmmm, it wouldn’t hurt to look it up again to refresh my (and your) memory. According to Medicinenet.com at http://www.medicinenet.com/hydrochlorothiazide/page2.htm, hydrochlorothiazide is prescribed for the following reasons:

“Hydrochlorothiazide is used to treat excessive fluid accumulation and swelling (edema) of the body caused by heart failure, cirrhosis, chronic kidney failure, corticosteroid medications, and nephrotic syndrome. It also is used alone or in conjunction with other blood pressure lowering medications to treat high blood pressure…. Hydrochlorothiazide can be used to treat calcium-containing kidney stones because it decreases the amount of calcium excreted by the kidneys in the urine and thus decreases the amount of calcium in urine to form stones….”

I didn’t recognize irbesartan specifically, although the sartan part was  familiar. According to the same source, but this time at http://www.medicinenet.com/irbesartan/article.htm, “Irbesartan is used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) and to help protect the kidneys from damage due to diabetes. Lowering high blood pressure helps prevent strokes, heart attacks, and kidney problems. Irbesartan belongs to a class of drugs called angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). It works by relaxing blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily.”

Oh, of course! I’m taking losartan for the same reason. I’d had hypertension for over 20 years before I was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease. Even if I hadn’t, once I was diagnosed with CKD, a drug like this would have been prescribed.  As a matter of fact, when I complained to my primary care doctor that I was taking too many pills (mostly supplements), she came up with one that combined hydrochlorothiazide and losartan.

 

 

 

 

But I digress. So, it’s a good thing that this reader no longer needs her hydrochlorothiazide since she has no swelling and that her irbesartan has been reduced since her blood vessels are becoming more relaxed. Wait a minute. Why wouldn’t every CKD patient want these results? Ah, but I’ve left something out of the equation.

She’s gone GF or Gluten Free. Ready? Here is the definition of gluten from the Oxford Dictionary at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/GLUTEN “A mixture of two proteins present in cereal grains, especially wheat, which is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.” Oh, come on. There must be more to it than that. Let’s try gluten free instead of gluten. Oh, my! NephCure at https://nephcure.org/livingwithkidneydisease/diet-and-nutrition/gluten-free-diet/

has an entire page devoted to going gluten free. But I am getting ahead of myself here.

Let’s go back to gluten, this time sources. The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/gluten-free-diets/what-foods-have-gluten.html  offers these lists:

What Foods Have Gluten?

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains. Avoiding wheat can be especially hard because this means you should avoid all wheat-based flours and ingredients. These include but are not limited to:
White Flour
Whole Wheat Flour
Durum Wheat
Graham Flour
Triticale
Kamut
Semolina
Spelt
Wheat Germ
Wheat Bran

Common foods that are usually made with wheat include:
Pasta
Couscous
Bread
Flour Tortillas
Cookies
Cakes
Muffins
Pastries
Cereal
Crackers
Beer
Oats (see the section on oats below)
Gravy
Dressings
Sauces
This may seem like a long list, but there are still plenty of gluten-free foods out there! Choose from many fresh, healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy, nuts and gluten-free grains like quinoa or rice. There are also gluten-free versions of many of the foods above available in most grocery stores. You just have to look for them!

Gluten Surprises
You may not expect it, but the following foods can also contain gluten:
broth in soups and bouillon cubes
breadcrumbs and croutons
some candies
fried foods
imitation fish
some lunch meats and hot dogs
malt
matzo
modified food starch
seasoned chips and other seasoned snack foods
salad dressings
self-basting turkey
soy sauce
seasoned rice and pasta mixes
There are also many additives  and ingredients in packaged foods that may contain gluten. Always check labels and ingredient lists for these. For a more comprehensive list of gluten-containing additives, contact your local celiac support group.

Other Tips to Remember
Don’t forget that ingredients in food products change frequently, so always check the label before buying packaged foods. Remember that “wheat-free” does not automatically mean “gluten-free.” While a product may not contain wheat, it can still contain rye or barley in some form. If you have any question about whether a food contains gluten, contact the manufacturer directly.

The Fuss About Oats
Pure oats are a gluten-free food, but most commercially processed oats have been contaminated during the growing, harvesting or processing stages. In the past, many experts recommended completely avoiding oats  those on a gluten-free diet in addition to wheat, barley, and rye. Now, some oats are grown and processed separately, and can be labeled “gluten-free.”

I see an awful lot of the same foods to avoid on this list as I do on the renal diet. I wonder if that would make it easier to go gluten free if you decide to?

Phosphorous! Aha. We, as CKD patients, need to limit our phosphorous intake. Have you noticed that many of these foods are high phosphorous? Is it possible that the gluten free diet will help us with our renal diets? I’m not suggesting that you go gluten free and I’m not suggesting that you don’t. I am saying the idea is, well, intriguing.

Before I forget: SlowItDownCKD has been chosen as one of Healthline’s top kidney disease blogs for 2017. Second year in a row!!!!! AND I’ve lowered the price of all five of my digital kidney books to $2.99 to spread the awareness of CKD out there more effectively. Oh, yes, you can still get them for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

The Other Side of the Coin

Here’s hoping everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day. During our relaxed celebration for Bear, I found myself ruminating about how many times we’ve celebrated this holiday for fathers no longer with us and how many more times  we would be able to celebrate it for the fathers who are. They are aging. Wait a minute, that means their kidneys are aging, too.

Yep, that meant a new blog topic. We already know that kidney function declines with age. According to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/blog/ask-doctor/what-age-do-kidneys-decline-function, “The general ‘Rule of Thumb’ is that kidney function begins to decline at age 40 and declines at a rate of about 1% per year beyond age forty. Rates may differ in different individuals.” 40?

Well, what is a perfect kidney function score… if such exists? Back  to the NKF, although they call this a ‘normal’ not ‘perfect’ GFR, this time at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/gfr:

In adults, the normal GFR number is more than 90. GFR declines with age, even in people without kidney disease.
Average estimated GFR
20–29     116
30–39     107
40–49     99
50–59     93
60–69     85
70+         75

Got it. So even for a normal 70+ person, I have CKD with my 50ish GFR.

It seems I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. I haven’t defined GFR yet. Let’s take a gander at What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for that definition,

“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.”

No, that won’t do. I think we need more of an explanation. This is from 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 through  the glomeruli each minute. Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that filter waste from the blood.

Many thanks to MedlinePlus at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007305.htm for the definition.”

Okay, I think that’s clear now. However, that’s not what I wanted to know. This is – if kidney function already declines with age, does having CKD age us more quickly?

Premature aging is a process associated with a progressive accumulation of deleterious changes over time, an impairment of physiologic functions, and an increase in the risk of disease and death. Regardless of genetic background, aging can be accelerated by the lifestyle choices and environmental conditions to which our genes are exposed. Chronic kidney disease is a common condition that promotes cellular senescence and premature aging through toxic alterations in the internal milieu. This occurs through several mechanisms, including DNA and mitochondria damage, increased reactive oxygen species generation, persistent inflammation, stem cell exhaustion, phosphate toxicity, decreased klotho expression, and telomere attrition….”

You can read the entire fascinating (to my way of thinking) American Journal of Kidney Disease article at http://www.natap.org/2013/HIV/PIIS0272638612015922.pdf.

Nature.com at http://www.nature.com/nrneph/journal/v10/n12/full/nrneph.2014.185.html seems to agree that CKD accelerates aging:

“Chronic kidney disease (CKD) shares many phenotypic similarities with other chronic diseases, including heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV infection and rheumatoid arthritis. The most apparent similarity is premature ageing, involving accelerated vascular disease and muscle wasting. We propose that in addition to a sedentary lifestyle and psychosocial and socioeconomic determinants, four major disease-induced mechanisms underlie premature ageing in CKD: an increase in allostatic load, activation of the ‘stress resistance response’, activation of age-promoting mechanisms and impairment of anti-ageing pathways. The most effective current interventions to modulate premature ageing—treatment of the underlying disease, optimal nutrition, correction of the internal environment and exercise training—reduce systemic inflammation and oxidative stress and induce muscle anabolism. Deeper mechanistic insight into the phenomena of premature ageing as well as early diagnosis of CKD might improve the application and efficacy of these interventions and provide novel leads to combat muscle wasting and vascular impairment in chronic diseases.”

Remember the friend of my daughter’s who hadn’t seen me in five years who (thought) he whispered to her, “Your mom got so old.” Now I understand why, although I have noticed this myself. I look in the mirror and see the bags under my eyes that are not errant eye liner. I see the lines in my faces, especially around my mouth, that weren’t there just a year ago. I see the stubborn fat around my middle that frustrates me no end. I see that it takes me forever (okay, so I’m being figurative here, folks) to recover from the flu, and I see how easily I become – and stay – tired. The dancer in me screams, “No fair!” The adult patient in me says, “Deal with it,” so I do.

I’ve used quite a bit of advanced terminology today, but haven’t explained a great deal of it in the hopes that when you read these articles their meanings will become clear in context. If they don’t, please leave me a comment and I will explore each one of them in future blogs. Who knows? Maybe I’ll need to devote an entire blog to whichever term it is you’d like to know more about.

Don’t let our premature aging get you down. We can work against it and, hopefully, slow it down just as we do with the progress of the decline in our kidney function.

I have been saving this bit of news for the last item in today’s blog. The world is not going to suffer if it doesn’t know about my photography, my teaching ,writing, or acting careers. But, when it comes to CKD, my writing can add something for those 31 million people who have it…especially the 90% that haven’t been diagnosed yet. What I did was completely change my web site so that it deals only with my Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Advocacy (It’s all caps because that’s the way I think of it.) under the umbrella of SlowItDownCKD. I have to admit, I was surprised to see how active I’ve been in the last decade. It’s different when you see your work listed all in one place. Take a look at www.gail-raegarwood.com and tell me what you think, would you?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

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!

The Helper Asks for Help

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Deanna Power, Director of Outreach Disability Benefits Help at the Social Security Administration. My first thought: are they raising my monthly amount? But isn’t it the wrong time of year for an awards letter from them? And why would the email be from Disability anyway? Hmmm, so I did the logic thing; I opened the email and read it.

Look at this! Ms. Power wants me to help those on dialysis and those who have a transplant understand the application for SSA. While I don’t usually deal with either End Stage Chronic Kidney Disease or Transplantation, this struck me as worthwhile. Take note of the possibility of SSA for less advanced kidney disease, too. So, without further ado…

****

If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease, you know that maintaining your career can be challenging due to your health needs and frequent doctor’s appointments. There might be financial assistance available for you.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will compare any applicant with kidney disease to its own medical guide of qualifying conditions, the Blue Book (written for medical professionals), which outlines exactly what treatments or test results are needed to qualify. This is under Section 6.00 which outlines three separate listings for kidney disease. Meeting one is enough to medically qualify.

6.03: Chronic kidney disease with hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least one year. Disability benefits will be paid throughout your treatments. An acceptable medical source (blood work, physician’s notes, etc.) is needed to approve your claim. You also may meet a kidney disease listing before your first round of dialysis, so be sure to check listing 6.05 (below) if your doctor is considering dialysis.

6.04: Chronic kidney disease with transplant. You will automatically medically qualify for disability benefits for at least one year. After that the SSA will revaluate your claim to determine if you are still eligible for disability benefits.

6.05: Chronic kidney disease, with impairment of function. This is the most complicated listing. The Blue Book – which was written for medical professionals – is available online, so you should review it with your doctor to know if you’ll qualify. In simplified terms, the Blue Book states:

You must have one of the following lab findings documented on at least two occasions, 90 days apart, within the same year:

  • Serum creatinine of 4mg/dL or greater, OR
  • Creatinine clearance of 20 ml/min or less, OR
  • Estimated glomerular filtration rate of 20 ml/min/1.73m2 or less

Additionally, you must have one of the following:

  1. Renal osteodystrophy (bone disease caused by kidney failure) with severe bone pain  and acceptable imaging documenting bone abnormalities, such as osteitis fibrosa, osteomalacia, or bone fractures, OR
  2. Peripheral neuropathy, OR
  3. Anorexia with weight loss, determined with a BMI of 18.0 or less, calculated on at least two occasions at least 90 days apart within the same year, OR
  4. Fluid overload syndrome with one of the following:
  • High blood pressure of 110 Hg despite at least 90 days of taking prescribed medication. Blood pressure must be taken at least 90 days apart during the same year.
  • Signs of vascular congestion or anasarca (fluid build up) despite 90 straight days of prescribed medication. Again, the vascular congestion or anasarca must have been recorded at the hospital at least twice, three months apart, and all within the same year.

You may need additional tests to evaluate your kidney function to determine your eligibility.

The SSA has a special approval process called a “Medical Vocational Allowance” that helps people with less advanced kidney disease get financial assistance when your kidney disease prevents you from performing any work that you’re qualified for. The SSA will look at how your treatments prevent you from working, and then compare your restrictions to your age, education, and work history.

Older applicants have an easier time qualifying this way, as the SSA believes they’ll have a harder time getting retrained for a new job. If you don’t have a college degree, you’ll also have an easier time getting approved, as people with college degrees often have a variety of skills that can be used at sedentary jobs. The more physical your past jobs, the better your chances of approval.

A Medical Vocational Allowance relies heavily on the findings from the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. An RFC documents how much you can stay seated or on your feet, how much weight you can lift, your ability to stoop and walk, and more. You can download an RFC online for your doctor to fill out on your behalf.

The majority of applicants can complete the entire process online. This is the easiest way to apply as you can save your progress to complete your application later. If you’d prefer to apply in person, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment at your closest Social Security office. There are at least four locations in every state.

The most important components of your application will be your thoroughness and attention to detail. Fill out every question on the application. Describe how your kidney disease impacts your ability to work specifically, or how it keeps you from performing daily tasks as you used to. Any complications or side effects from your treatments and medications need to be recorded as well.

The SSA will not require you to submit your medical records yourself, but you do need to list every hospital where you’ve received treatment. If the SSA can’t find evidence documenting your kidney disease, you won’t be approved.

It takes an average of five months to be approved. That’s when your benefits start. You will be eligible for Medicare 24 months after “the onset of your disability,” which is typically the point at which your kidney disease stopped you from working. If your kidney disease is end stage, your waiting period will be waived.

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Many thanks to Ms. Power for suggesting I pass on this information. Please use the links, file your papers, and make life a bit easier for yourself if you fit into any of these designations. It’s all about helping each other after all, isn’t it?

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!

FullSizeRender (3)

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!

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!

Teachers Teach

Many of you have asked that I post the interview by The American Federation of Teachers. I aim to please, so here it is.

 Gail Rae-Garwood

From NYC teacher to international health advocate

Posted August 9, 2016 by Liza Frenette

Gail Rae-Garwood talks and writes all the time about slowing down — but she’s not referring to her lifestyle speed. She’s talking about putting the brakes on Chronic Kidney Disease.

When this retired high school English teacher and United Federation of Teachers member was diagnosed with CKD in 2008, she was shocked. A new doctor detected unhealthy levels for kidney functioning in routine blood and urine workups. She was sent to a nephrologist. “I didn’t know what it was and what it meant,” she said. “I was terrified and thought I had nowhere to turn.”

She began researching and finding ways to manage this inflammatory disease through a specialized, calibrated diet, exercise, stress reduction and proper sleep. Then she realized she wanted to help others steer toward solutions. Rae-Garwood writes a weekly blog, a daily post and has published four books designed for people with CKD. She answers questions from around the world. She has spoken at coffee shops, Kiwanis Clubs, independent bookstores and senior citizen centers. She’s been a guest blogger for the American Kidney Fund, which promotes prevention activities AKF logoand educational resources, and provides financial assistance for clinical research and for kidney patients who need help with dialysis and transplants.

While she is careful about getting enough sleep and eating right, Rae-Garwood does not let any waking time slip by unnoticed. She has been interviewed on Online with Andrea, The Edge Podcast, Working with Chronic Illness, and Improve Your Kidney Help. She has been interviewed for the Wall Street Journal’s Health Matters and The Center for Science in The Public Interest.

Her action is not all talk. She also puts on the sneakers: In addition to her regular walks for health, she hustled up a team for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona Kidney Walk.

By now, even her heart is probably kidney shaped.

Rae-Garwood also organized several talks at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, not far from where she lives in Arizona.

Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are more prone to CKD, she said. “I wanted to bring awareness everywhere I could.”NKF-logo_Hori_OB

Education is vital because so many people are unaware they even have the disease. Rae-Garwood is one of many who did not have any symptoms. “Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before (CKD) was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD.”

And CKD, left unchecked and untreated, can wreak havoc and death. According to the American Association of Kidney Patients, “The increase of kidney disease is now reaching epidemic proportions. The rates are even higher among racial and ethnic minorities. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage renal disease and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.”

Rae-Garwood’s goal is to educate people and help them with their health. “You can slow down the progress of the decline of kidney function,” she said.

And she is the very living proof that people want to see.

kidneys5“I have been spending a lot of time on my health and I’m happy to say it’s been paying off. There are five stages. I’ve stayed at the middle one for nine years and even improved my health. That’s what this is about. People don’t know about CKD. They get diagnosed. They think they’re going to die. Everybody dies, but it doesn’t have to be of CKD. I am downright passionate about people knowing this,” she said.

After her first book was published, Rae-Garwood received an e-mail from a doctor in India. He said his patients were extremely poor and could not afford the book – yet the information she wrote about was so important to them.

“He asked how I could help. I thought: ‘I could write a blog!’” she said. Her efforts began by putting her book chapters on the blog, piece by piece. The doctor in India printed them and gave them to his patients. Newer blog posts have more up-to-date information, keeping patients informed.

Her informational blog has 106,000 readers from 107 different countries, she said, based on a report from WordPress. On her blog, Rae-Garwood answers questions from readers, lists books about CKD, reports on events, lists support groups, etc. She writes about things that have worked for her, such as using a stationary bike and stretching bands, and walking  — and cautions readers to seek advice from their doctor.

The year-round outdoor climate in Arizona helps Rae-Garwood stay active. While she loved living on Staten Island, she said she owned an old Victorian that she could not afford to fix up in retirement. With an arthritis condition, she also noticed that she was “becoming a bit of a shut-in in the winter.” So she moved to the southwest two months after retiring.

GFRRae-Garwood is not letting any of that sunshine go to waste. Since her 2008 diagnosis. she’s been driving on a steady road to wellness and spreading awareness like a modern day Johnny Appleseed. In her retirement from teaching, she has devoted much time to writing, speaking and teaching about how to thwart the disease. The skills she developed in 32 years as a teacher in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and Manhattan have served her well in this new role as health advocate.

Her own four self-published books are “SlowItDownCKD 2015,” “The Book of Blogs, Moderate Stage Kidney Disease Part 1,” “The Book of Blogs, Moderate Stage Kidney Disease Part2” and “What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.” The books are available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

For more information on the disease and this active, 69-year-old retiree, check out https://gailraegarwood.wordpress.com.

I hope that this interview has been both enjoyable and informative. It’s how I live my life…

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!

Apple Cider Vinegar?

I woke up thinking, ‘apple cider vinegar.” Granted, that’s an odd thought for the first thing in the morning… or is it? Last week, I blogged about the Apple-Cider-Vinegarbenefits of drinking lemon juice in a glass of water first thing in the morning. Okay, you’ve read the blog; you know that.

What you may not know is that the blog is posted on a multitude of Facebook chronic illness sites. A reader on one of these sites commented on the blog. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it had something to do with her taking apple cider vinegar every day to help keep her body in alkaline balance.

Ah, now that first thought of the day today is starting to make sense. Monday is blog day for me. It looks like my mind was providing me with a topic for today’s blog.SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

I’ll bet the first question you have is why she would want to help keep her body in alkaline balance. Let’s do a little back tracking to answer that question. As per last week’s blog, Dr. Jonny Bowden, a nutritionist and health author, tells us, “Having a healthy alkaline balance helps fight germs.” No contest, I’m sure we all want to do that.

I know, I know, now you’d like to know why alkaline balance – as opposed to acidic body chemistry – does that.  I do, too.  An article on MedIndia, a respected medical site, at http://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/alkaline-diet.htm explains this:

“A pH of less than 7 is acidic and a pH of more than 7 is alkaline, water being neutral with pH=7. Since one of the most important measurements of health is the pH of the body fluids, it is very important to have an acid-base balance. Any imbalance, especially those leaning towards acidic, could be associated with health disorders including obesity, tiredness, premature aging, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Reminder: “The pH of a solution is a measure of the molar concentration of hydrogen ions in the solution and as such is a measure of the acidity or basicity of the solution.” Thank you, Hyperphysics at http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/chemical/ph.html for the definition.

Did you catch diabetes in the MedIndia quote? That is the number one cause of Chronic Kidney Disease. This is what I wrote about that in my first What is itCKD book What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease,

“In fact, the U.S. has the highest rate of CKD with 210 people per million having it, and two thirds of those cases caused by diabetes or HBP.”

And that was back in 2011. Two thirds of 210 people per million. .. and we don’t know how many of them developed CKD from HBP – or diabetes. Taking no chances, I’ll opt for alkaline balance in my body, even though I already have Chronic Kidney Disease.

Next question: how does apple cider vinegar help keep a body in alkaline balance? Let’s go back to last week’s blog again.

“Body Ecology at http://bodyecology.com/articles/acidic-foods-and-acid-forming-foods-do-you-know-the-difference had exactly what I needed:

‘To clear up some of the confusion:

  • Acidic and alkaline describe the nature of food before it is eaten.
  • Acidifying foods and acid-forming foods are the same, making the body more acidic.
  • Alkalizing foods and alkaline-forming foods are the same, making the body more alkaline. ‘”

All right then, we get it that something acidic – like vinegar – could actually be alkaline once it’s ingested. And we understand that an alkaline balance can keep us healthier. But we have CKD. Is apple cider vinegar something we can take?

Kidney Hospital China at http://www.kidneyhospitalchina.org/ckd-healthy-living/961.html was helpful here, although I am still leery of websites that offer online doctor advice. They maintain that it can lower your blood pressure – a good thing since high blood pressure is not only a cause of CKD, but also can make it worse. They also consider it an anti-inflammatory, although I’m beginning to wonder if all alkaline foods are. Then they mention it helps prevent colds and removes toxins in the blood. Both will help relieve some of the kidney’s burden.

This warning was the first I’d seen in all the blogs and natural eating sites I perused for information about today’s topic… and it comes from Kidney Hospital China:

“Apple cider vinegar is high in potassium and phosphorus, so kidney disease patients who have high potassium and high phosphorus levels in blood need to avoid the intake of the drinks.”

In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, I referred to an article entitled Vegetarian diet helps kidney disease patients stay healthy in order to point out why we need to keep our phosphorous levels low:

“Individuals with kidney disease cannot adequately rid the body of phosphorus, which is found in dietary proteins and is a common food additive. Kidney disease patients must limit their phosphorous intake, as high levels of the mineral can lead to heart disease and death.”

IMG_1398

 

In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, I succinctly reminded us why we want to watch our potassium intake:

“But isn’t potassium good for you?  After all, it does help the heart, muscles, and our beloved kidneys function normally as well as dumping wastes from our cells. Here’s the kicker, an excess of potassium can cause irregular heartbeat and even heart attack.”

All in all, I think this might be a go. Do talk it over with your nephrologist or renal dietician before you start on a regiment of apple cider vinegar. I only research; they’ve been to medical school. By the way, many of these sites talked about the pleasing taste of this drink. I may have to try it just to see if any drink containing vinegar tastes good.

I have not forgotten that I promised to give you the link to the most recent podcast. I had thought the topic was going to be my Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Advocacy, but the skillful interviewer – Mike G. – managed to cover every aspect of my life.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Why Not Here?

Having had no particular medical issue of my own this week – finally! – and none for anyone else in the family, I was casting about for something I’d like to write about when I found this in my files. It’s from SBS, which is self-described as, “…multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society.” You can find this particular article at http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/05/28/doctors-hope-new-test-will-arrest-kidney-disease-deaths.

Australia“’The State of the Nation: Chronic Kidney Disease in Australia’ report by Kidney Health Australia shows while one in 10 adults have kidney disease, only one in 100 know they have it. But Kidney Health Australia medical director Tim Mathews said that could be about to change thanks to a new take-home test distributed by pharmacists.

‘Pharmacists have an opportunity to identify people at high risk of kidney trouble – those who present with a prescription for diabetes and for high blood pressure are the two groups we’re focusing on,’ Dr Mathews said. ‘So that’s an opportunity for them to have a dialogue with the patient and see if they’ve had their kidneys checked, and if not, offer them a urine test which the patient then buys and takes home to test in their own privacy. At the moment we know in General Practice, only 40 per cent of diabetics are having a urine test each year – we would hope to push that number up by this program. ‘”Urine_sample

Of course, I know that we’re not in Australia and that this is from almost two years ago, but think of it! Here we are desperate to spread Chronic Kidney Awareness so that people will know to be checked for the disease while the Australians are already doing something about people getting tested.

Why can’t we do that? Or are we already doing that? If we aren’t, why not? It just seemed such a simple aid to informing people they need to be tested.

What is it

 

SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

 

IMG_1398

 

 

I’ve written four books about CKD and I know I haven’t covered this possibility in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 and 2, or SlowItDownCKD 2015. Why not? Because the idea is just so simple, so obvious, that I never thought of it. Let’s see if anyone else in the U.S. has.

Hmmm, I did find this from EurekAlert at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/cpa-pkt012616.php :

“Pharmacists who screened at-risk patients for chronic kidney disease (CKD) found previously unrecognized disease in 1 of every 6.4 patients tested, according to a study to be published in the January/February 2016 issue of the Canadian Pharmacists Journal.”

Sorry, wrong country – although we’re at least on the right continent now. I think I just found one… nope, that’s in England. Wait, there’s AJKDsomething in the American Journal of Kidney Disease… oh, it’s an editorial proposing pharmacists keep on the lookout for those at risk for CKD. Will you look at that! This was proposed in 2004, a dozen years ago. Canada, UK, Canada. No, nothing for the USA.

I know my pharmacist is very, very careful to check that the drugs I’m prescribed are those that will not harm my kidneys. You’ve probably already read several of my blogs about that. In the last one, I wrote about how a doctor covering for my primary care physician would not listen when I told him I had CKD and that my pharmacist told me point blank not to buy the drug he prescribed, then called him to make certain he understood why this drug was not one for CKD patients. He didn’t listen to me; she did… and then made him listen to her.

On a personal note, we had an extremely quiet third anniversary since I had the flu and Bear had a new diagnose of his own to deal with. I’m gladIMG_2394 we’d gotten to the symphony beforehand and we’ll just have re-arrange the dinner out with some of the kids. We’ve got that little vacation in Texas to look forward to next week. I’m sure we can find a way to celebrate there. Thank you for your warm wishes. I was surprised at how many people remembered.

I’m lucky. I have never felt alone, not even with the CKD diagnose. But some of my readers have let me know how very alone they feel with their illness even though family and friends are supportive. That’s why I want to let you know about The National Kidney Foundation’s Peers. The following is from their website at https://www.kidney.org/patients/peers.

“Do you need help adjusting to life with kidney disease? Or want to learn more about treatment options? NKF Peers is a FREE, telephone-based peer support  program from the National Kidney Foundation.   The program matches those in need of support with a peer mentor who has  been through a similar situation. You’ll connect with your mentor through a free, private phone system so you won’t have to disclose your personal phone number….

About NKF Peers

  • A national, telephone-based peer support program from the National Kidney Foundation
  • Connects people who want support with someone who has been there
  • Helps people adjust to living with chronic kidney disease, kidney failure, or a kidney transplant.

Also offers support to those considering living kidney donation or who have been have been living kidney donors.

NKF-logo_Hori_OB

 

 

How do participants interact with each other?

  • Participants are connected through a toll-free, automated telephone system. No one discloses personal phone numbers or incurs long-distance charges.
  • The automated telephone system allows participants to leave voicemail messages for their partners and block calls at certain hours.
  • Telephone services are provided free-of-charge by the NKF.

To learn more: Call 855-653-7337 (855-NKF-PEER) or email nkfpeers@kidney.org”

Of course, you can always drop a question or a comment on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page and I’ll research whatever you’re asking about… with the provision that you understand I am not a doctor and that you need to speak with your nephrologist before taking any action on my advice.kidney.jpg If it’s private, you can email me at SlowItDownCKD@gmail.com …with the same provision. By the way, I’m available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Do take a look at the new book. I’m really proud of this baby.

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.

Good Enough 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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!

Here, There, and Everywhere

IMG_2867We did it! This attempt at our delayed honeymoon was a real honeymoon… only one with my brothers and sisters-in-law which made it even better in my book. (Like that play on words?)

We couldn’t take a honeymoon right after we married because I got sick. Thank you so much compromised immune system for that. Then Bear had surgery that laid him up for a long, long, long time or so it seemed.

We finally planned our delayed honeymoon to Vancouver, British Columbia (Thanks for the help in planning that part, Denis Beaudry.) and Alaska. Thank you for the help in planning that part, Mark Rosen.

Bear always wanted to cruise the Inside Passage and ride the Alaska Railroad. I always wanted to see the B.C. distant family talked about. We got our wishes but IMG_1320couldn’t enjoy much of them due to Bear contracting cellulitis on the second day. That meant IVs and high fevers. Trash delayed honeymoon attempt #1.

But then, due to my sister-in-law’s generosity in inviting us to try a honeymoon again by joining my brother and her on their 48th anniversary/her birthday cruise, we finally got our long awaited honeymoon. We’d been married 2 ½ years by this time.

To round out the fun, brother #2 and his wife decided to join us.  Although various combinations of us have been together throughout the years, the five of us hadn’t all been together in 27 years!!!!! Bear was the most welcomed newcomer to the family.

oasis of the seasRoyal Caribbean International did it up, well, royally. Of course, this was only my second cruise, but my family is cruiseophiles and they told me this was so. I took a writer’s liberty to make up a word here. It means lover of cruises. Feel free to steal it.

So, what does any of this have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease, you ask? We did go to three different countries, although there was only a limited shore excursion in each and we saw only what tourists see in each. (Here comes my favorite phrase.) That got me to thinking. I wondered what CKD treatment was like in each of these countries.

Our first port of call was Labadee, Haiti. I’m told this is a very dangerous area. The comedian onboard likened the tourist area to Jurassic Park in that it is totally fenced in to protect the tourists and keep out the local people.  Funny, the cruise line referred to it as ‘a private beach.’ I guess it’s all a matter of prospective.

We took a catamaran ride in order to see more than the ‘private beach’ allowed and were repeatedly cautioned not to leave the encampment that was the tourist attraction, other than these sanctioned boat rides.  That’s also where we learned there are no police there. But was there CKD treatment?What is it

 

According to National Institutes of Health (in the background material of the abstract of a small study of CKD in the rural areas of Haiti):

In the Caribbean region chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an increasing challenge. High rates of non-communicable and infectious diseases and the rise in people suffering from diabetes and hypertension explain the observed and further expected increase of CKD. However, data about the magnitude of the problem are rare and in some countries such as Haiti completely lacking.

You can read a little bit more at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25535765

So what data might there be? I did find a blog about another small study at http://blog.smw.ch/chronic-kidney-disease-in-a-rural-region-of-haiti/. However, this contained cautions about the population of the study and the fact that – again – only one rural region was studied. They did have some interesting, although not surprising, results.

CKD was found in 27% of the study population. Risk factors independently associated with CKD were: hypertension, HIV infection and age >60 yr.

What makes it worse is that Haiti has 80% unemployment and very few people have health insurance.

IMG_1398Maybe our next port of call, Falmouth in Jamaica, was more involved with CKD.

I went to http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/jamaica-kidney-disease for the following information.

According to the latest WHO [Reminder: that’s the World Health Organization.] data published in may (sic) 2014 Kidney Disease Deaths in Jamaica reached 550 or 3.08% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 20.00 per 100,000 of population ranks Jamaica #37 in the world.

CKD is the ninth leading cause of death in Jamaica. It’s the eighth leading cause of death here in the United States. It’s a teeny country; ours is not. Draw your own conclusions.

Although we were again warned not to wander off by ourselves since this was also considered a dangerous country, we were able to tour a 1700s plantation. Just as Haiti, it was absolutely beautiful, but again – we saw only a few roads and what we were allowed to see. One of my brothers and his wife took a walking food tour and were appalled at how poorly the inhabitants of the country lived. Remember, we were only tourists formulating opinions on our quick view of each of these countries.

I was quite taken with the direct approach of The West Indian Medical Journal’s assessment of CKD in the Caribbean, although they do not especially mention labadee and falmouthJamaica.

There are not enough nephrologists in Caribbean countries and some countries may lack a nephrology service. Coordinating patient care between specialist and primary care physicians is essential in managing the burden of this growing disease.

You can read more at http://caribbean.scielo.org/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0043-31442011000400017

The only other information I could find was from 1999. I felt 16 years was a long time ago, too long to include that information here.

My conclusion is that these developing countries are well aware of the increasing incidence of CKD among their population, why it’s there, and how much of a financial burden it represents. You need to remember that both countries have a predominantly black population (although there’s been plenty of intermarriage) which historically has a higher incidence of hypertension, one of the leading causes of CKD.

Oh boy, looks like we’ll have to leave our last port of call – Cozumel in Mexico – until next week.

Until next week,

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!

We Are Not Alone, Unfortunately

I have a friend who keeps telling me that Chronic Kidney Disease is not as widespread as I think it is and that I should stop scaring people by telling them it is. My usual way is to present facts, but not argue. In this case, I found myself arguing which made me wonder if I could be wrong.  Why protest so vehemently if I were sure I was right?

And that’s what today’s blog is about. First, you should know this has nothing to do with whether my friend is right, or if I am. It’s bigger than that… a lot bigger.

How big? Well, let’s start with the United States of America.  This diagram is from The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/kidney-disease-statistics-united-states.aspx.

ckd

I don’t want to scare you too, but 2008 was seven years ago.  How much more has the incidence of new CKD cases risen since then?  Notice it’s the over 65 population with the dramatic rise in new cases. That’s my age group.  Maybe it’s yours, too.

[Reminder from the glossary of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease: Medicare is the U.S. government health insurance for those over 65, those having certain special needs, or those who have end stage renal disease.]

This next bit of information is from the American Kidney Fund at http://www.kidneyfund.org/about-us/assets/pdfs/akf-kidneydiseasestatistics-2012.pdf and shows us the numbers for 2012.  That’s getting closer to today, but it’s still three years ago.

Kidney disease is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States.

An estimated 31 million people in the United States (10% of the population) have chronic kidney disease (CKD).

9 out of 10 people who have stage 3 CKD (moderately decreased kidney function) do not know it.kidney interior

CKD is more common among women, but men with CKD are 50 more likely than women to progress to kidney failure (also called end-stage renal disease or ESRD)

Some racial and ethnic groups are at greater risk for kidney failure. Relative to whites, the risk for African Americans is 3.8 times higher, Native Americans is 2 times higher, Asians is 1.3 times higher, and Hispanics also have increased risk, relative to non-Hispanics.

I was diagnosed at stage 3, age 60, and had never heard of CKD before. This chart from the National Kidney Fund at www.kidney.org demonstrates the stages. The numbers outside the half circle represent the percentage of kidney function at each stage.

stages of CKD

That means I was one of the 9 out of 10 people who had stage 3 CKD and didn’t know it, even though I was a woman over 50 (actually, well over 50). Talk about being blind-sided!

What is itTime for another reminder – from my first book again: CKD is damage to the kidneys for more than three months, which cannot be reversed but may be slowed.

Imagine being told you had an incurable disease.  What would your first thought be?  Mine was bizarre. I told the nephrologist that my daughter was getting married.  What I didn’t tell him because I was so shocked at this diagnose is that I thought it meant I was going to die very soon, but I couldn’t allow that because I wanted to be at her wedding.

By the way, that’s where my CKD Awareness activism comes from. I didn’t want any of us to think we were under threat of imminent death once we were diagnosed.  I’d rather explain how to get tested (Eighth leading cause of death in the U.S.) and – #SlowItDownCKD – slow down the progression of the decline of your kidney function.

Let’s take a look at over countries.  This is from Kidney Health Australia as of May this year at http://www.kidney.org.au/kidneydisease/fastfactsonckd/tabid/589/default.aspx

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE CKD?

  • Approximately 1.7 million Australians (1 in 10) aged 18 years and over have indicators of CKD such as reduced kidney function and/or the presence of albumin in the urine.
  • Less than 10% of the people with CKD are aware they have this condition.
  • This means over 1.5 million Australians are unaware they have indicators of CKD.

Unhealthy%20KidneyWHO IS AT INCREASED RISK OF CKD?

  • 1 in 3 Australians is at an increased risk of developing CKD.
  • Adult Australians are at an increased risk of CKD if they:
    • have diabetes
    • have high blood pressure
    • have established heart problems (heart failure or heart attack) and/or have had a stroke
    • have a family history of kidney disease
    • are obese (Body Mass Index BMI – more than or equal to 30)
    • are a smoker
    • are 60 years or older
    • are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin

Notice their statistics are similar to ours, but there are two more are higher risk groups.

IMG_1398

“In 2013, nearly one million people died from chronic kidney disease. While this represents less than 2 percent of all deaths globally, it is a 135 percent increase from the number of chronic kidney disease-related deaths in 1990.

While the global increase in chronic kidney disease-related deaths is driven in part by people living to older ages, there is no scientific consensus on what is making this increasingly prominent among younger adults, with a near doubling of chronic kidney disease-related deaths among people ages 15 to 49 since 1990.”

The quote above is from Humanosphere at http://www.humanosphere.org/science/2015/01/visualizing-the-rise-of-chronic-kidney-disease-worldwide/ and is related to The Global Burden of Disease Study.

So you see, we are not alone.  Nor are we living under a death sentence. We can spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease and educate those diagnosed as to how to slow down the progression of the disease.

Kidney ArizonaTalking (I know, I know, writing) about this, The National Kidney Fund of Arizona will be holding a Path to Wellness screening on Saturday, September 19, 2015 at the Indo American Cultural Center. This includes free blood and urine testing, which is evaluated onsite using point-of-care testing devices to assess for the risk of diabetes, heart and kidney diseases. Those screened are also presented with chronic disease management education, an overall health assessment (weight, blood pressure, etc.) and a one-on-one consultation with a physician. Enrollment opportunities are offered for a follow-up 6-week series of Healthy Living workshops that teach chronic disease self-management skills.

Oh, one last thing. Have you heard about P2P’s Chronic Illness Buy & Sell page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/P2PBuy.Sell/ ? It will be the place to go for anything chronic illness related. My first book is advertised there and both The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease books will be soon, too.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sexy!

IMG_2867Sometimes as you age, you find that sex is not that important… or, at least, the hanging from the chandeliers kind isn’t. *sigh* Add to the age factor that you and/or your partner may have physical limitations or be taking medication that impedes indulging as often and as fervently as you used to. *sigh*sigh* Now add your Chronic Kidney Disease to this equation. *sigh*sigh*sigh*

Does this mean you’re doomed to a life of fervent hugging and kissing and no more? Not at all, my friends, not at all.

Let’s take a look at what I had to say (oh, all right, write) about the glorious, yet somehow still taboo, topic of sex for CKD patients. Those of you Book Coverwith a print copy of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease will find this begins on page 100. If you have the digital version, do a word search for ‘sex.’ It’ll be the third finding on the search.

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

Some of the physical causes of impotence, more recently referred to as Erectile Dysfunction [E.D.] for a CKD patient could be poor blood supply since there are narrowed blood vessels all over the body.  Or maybe it’s leaky blood vessels.  Of course, it could be a hormonal disturbance since the testicles may be producing less testosterone and the kidneys are in charge of hormones. Possibly, you’re tired from CKD induced anemia.  I’ve just mentioned a few possibilities. The silver lining is that there are almost as many treatments as there are causes.

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

blood pressure 300dpi jpgThe usual remedies for E.D. can be used with CKD patients, too, but you need to make certain your urologist and your nephrologists work together, especially if your treatment involves changing medications, hormone replacement therapy or an oral medication like Viagra. There are other treatments not mentioned here….

Sometimes, the treatment is as simple as counseling and the cessation of smoking and alcohol.  Hmmmm, as CKD patients, we’ve already been advised to stop smoking and drinking.  This is another reason for male CKD patients to do so.

Women with CKD may also suffer from sexual problems, but the causes can be complicated.  As with men, renal disease, diabetes and hypertension may contribute to the problem.  But so can poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, stress and sexual abuse [It’s become clear since the book was published in 2011 that men also may suffer from these conditions]. Any chronic disease can make a man or a woman feel less sexual.

Some remedies for women are the same as those for men.  I discovered through my research that vaginal lubricants and technique, routine, and environment changes when making love, warm baths, massage, and vibrators can help. Again, there are other, more medical treatments.

Common sense tells us that sex or intimacy is not high on your list of priorities when you’ve just been recently diagnosed.  I was obsessed with my [e.g. premature and unnecessary] revulsion of dialysis and needed to hear over and over again that it was a couple of decades too early to worry about this.  I was also tired and didn’t know why, just worried that I would always need an afternoon rest period.… Then I discovered that vaginal strep B can occur in women over 60 with CKD.  Luckily for me, if you catch it and treat it early on, it’s just an infection that you take antibiotics to kill.  If you don’t treat it early, you just may be looking at some serious consequences.

Since we’re in the early stages of CKD, chances are the sexual problem is not physical other than being tired.  I never talked to my nephrologist about sex because I felt there was no reason to, and I had a partner who was willing to work around my rest periods until I had the energy.  But, I sleepam convinced, that if I ever do feel I have reason, I would talk to him. I’m older and prefer women doctors for the most part especially when it comes to private matters but this man is the specialist who knows far more than I do about this disease I am struggling to prevent from progressing.  There is a point when you realize your life is more important than not being embarrassed.

Sometimes people with chronic diseases can be so busy being the patient that they forget their partners have needs, too.  And sometimes, remembering to stay close, really close as in hugging and snuggling, can be helpful.  You’ve got to keep in mind that some CKD patients never have sexual problems, no change in frequency and depth of desire and no impairment in the act itself.  This is not the time to make yourself the textbook case of the CKD patient who suffers sexually because of her disease. The best advice I received in this area was make love even if you don’t want to.  Magic.

I wrote that five years ago and very little has changed. You’ll see that I added an update in brackets and omitted outdated information.  Otherwise, my advice is the same.  But keep in mind that I am not a doctor and have never claimed to be one. Speak to your nephrologist if you feel your sex life is being hampered by your CKD.

Check The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 and 2 to see if they have more information about sex and our disease.IMG_1398

Wow!  I keep the blog to about 1,000 words and I’m already over.  It’s just as well, we’re off to find some delicious candles and add some sexy music to the iPod… just in case we’re in the mood sometime soon, you understand.

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

On the Sea, On the Sea, On the Beautiful Sea

What a week!  All the aspects of the Phoenix Kidney Walk have been completed, although you can still donate to Team SlowItDownCKD at kidneywalk.kintera.org until May 31st.  No, this is not a solicitation, but rather information for those of you who had asked for it. 2015-04-18 22.02.52

I thought you might like to see some of the pictures so here they are sprinkled throughout today’s blog – with thanks to Keith Harris for being our impromptu (and talented) photographer. Most of the members of our team were too busy walking to stay still for photos, but they were there. That’s Keith Harris, Patti DuBois & me in the photo above.

This allowed me to slow it down a bit myself.  So much so that I started finalizing the plans for the cruise to Vancouver, B.C. and Alaska that’s my gift to Bear for our second anniversary. (Finally, our long awaited honeymoon!) One of the things my very-experienced-at-cruising sister-in-law, Judy Peck, told me about is anti-motion sickness medication.  And, of course, my first reaction was, “I’ll have to research that for Chronic Kidney Disease.”  The banner picture is of my daughter, Abby Wegerski, on the left and me on the right.

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First I went to the UK site ‘Patient’ at http://www.patient.co.uk/medicine/cyclizine-for-sickness for the definition of what is commonly known as sea sickness or, as the English call it, travel sickness. This site has the some of the most reader friendly explanations for medical issues.

Nerves situated inside your ear send messages to your brain with information about your movement. Along with messages from your eyes and muscles, these nerves help your body to maintain a good sense of balance. If the nerves in one of your ears send too many, too few, or wrong messages to your brain, it conflicts with the messages sent from your other ear, your eyes, or your body. Your brain then gets confused and this can cause dizziness and vertigo (a spinning sensation), and can make you feel sick.

Travel sickness is caused by repeated unusual movements during travelling. These repeated movements, such as going over bumps or around in a 2015-04-18 21.41.32  circle, send lots of messages to your brain. The balance mechanism in your ear sends different signals to those from your eyes, which  results in your brain receiving mixed and confusing messages. This is what causes you to feel sick.

That’s a picture of my young friend and pooper scooper/dog sitter, Willie Vlasity and Mr. Taco Bell.

Makes sense.  Now, what can we do about it? According to MedicineNet at     http://www.medicinenet.com/motion_sickness_sea_sickness_car_sickness/page3.htm,

Over-the-counter medications, and occasionally prescription medications, are used to relieve and in some cases prevent motion sickness. Some of the more common medications that can be used for motion sickness include:

Scopolamine (transdermal patches, Transderm-Scop)2015-04-18 21.08.28

dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)

meclizine (Antivert, Bonine, Meni-D, Antrizine)

promethazine (Phenergan, Phenadoz, Promethegan)

diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

cyclizine (Marezine)

Notice Patti made a new friend, too.

Wonderful, except that when I researched each of these on different sites, this is what I found. By the way, the bolding and italicizing are mine.

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Lara Garwood, my step-daughter, helped me show off our team t-shirts.

At MedlinePlus, A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine from the National Institutes of Health National Institutes of Health (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682509.html),

Before using scopolamine patches… tell your doctor if you have or have ever had glaucoma; heart, liver, or kidney disease; stomach or intestinal obstruction; or difficulty urinating.

From Drugs.com at http://www.drugs.com/disease-interactions/dimenhydrinate,dramamine.html about dimenhydrinate, better known as Dramamine (including less drowsy),

Limited pharmacokinetic data are available for the older, first-generation antihistamines. Many appear to be primarily metabolized by the liver, and both parent drugs and metabolites are excreted in the urine. Patients with renal and/or liver disease may be at greater risk for adverse effects from antihistamines due to drug and metabolite accumulation. Therapy with antihistamines should be administered cautiously in such patients. Lower initial dosages may be appropriate.

On the contrary, MedicineNet.com at http://www.medicinenet.com/meclizine/index.htm does not list kidney disease at all for meclizine.  Although, there is a warning against alcohol use while using this medication.

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Isn’t that a wonderful entry to the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona Phoenix Kidney Walk?

Trying to use as many varied sources as possible, I went to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-8895/promethazine-oral/details for information on promethazine.

Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: breathing problems (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-COPD, sleep apnea), blood/immune system problems (such as bone marrow depression), high pressure in the eye (glaucoma), heart disease (such as irregular heartbeat), high blood pressure, liver disease, certain brain disorders (such as neuroleptic malignant syndrome, Reye’s syndrome, seizures), stomach/intestine problems (such as blockage, ulcer), overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), difficulty urinating (for example, due to enlarged prostate).

True, there is no warning against using promethazine if you have CKD, but how many of us who do also have sleep apnea and/or high blood pressure – the second most common cause of CKD.

Back to Medicinenet.com for the following about diphenhydramine at http://www.medicinenet.com/diphenhydramine/article.htm.

Diphenhydramine should be used with caution (if at all) in persons with narrow-angle glaucoma, prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate gland), hyperthyroidism, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), and asthma.

motion sickness

And what about cyclizine?  Everydayhealth.com at http://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/cyclizine has no warnings about taking this if you have kidney disease.  There was one line in the how to take it section that just, plain cracked me up.  See if you get a good laugh out of this, too.

The chewable tablet must be chewed before you swallow it.

Let’s look into the two without any CKD warnings a bit more. Uh-oh, the British version of WebMD at http://drugs.webmd.boots.com/drugs/drug-137-Cyclizine.aspx tells us something different about cyclizine than the U.S. version of the same website.

Cyclizine should be used with caution in:

People with glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye)

People with obstructive disease of the stomach

People with liver disease

People with epilepsy (fits)

Males with prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of prostate gland)

People with severe heart failure

People with decreased kidney functionncl

Pregnant women

Women breastfeeding

The elderly

As for meclizine, even the U.S. version of WebMD says emphatically “Consult your doctor.”

In all honesty, I wouldn’t take any medication without consulting my doctor – specifically my nephrologist.  I urge you to do the same.

Let’s say I was sufficiently spooked by today’s blog to not even want to try medication.  Is there something I could use to prevent sea sickness that’s not medication?  Of course, there is. Many people swear by these remedies, but that’s next week’s blog, folks.

Thank you so much for participating in the prize giveaways for each of the books.  As I saw each prize claimed, all I could think was, “Look how many people are going to share their awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease.”

Book Cover

Until next week,Part 2Digital Cover Part 1

Keep living your life!

DON’T K.E.E.P. It a Secret

National Kidney MonthHello, Week Two of National Kidney Month.  Surely, you’ve gotten yourself checked for Chronic Kidney Disease by now.  After all, more than 20% of us here in the U.S. have it. That’s 10 million people. Mind boggling, isn’t it. Here’s the kicker: that’s as of 2010 – five years ago now – according to The National Kidney and Urologic Disease and Information Clearinghouse at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/kustats/#3

But, wait, it gets worse. If you, like me, are over 50, your risk has increased.  Over 70 {Awk!  That’s only two years away for me.}, it increases even more.  What hurts for me is that so many people don’t know they have Chronic Kidney Disease. I’ve read statistics placing this at anywhere from 20 to 90%.  Rather than go on again about if-I-had-been-diagnosed-at-stage-1-rather-than-stage-3-I-would-have-had-more-time-to-slow-down-the-progression-of-my-ckd, let’s just say it’s easy to have yourself tested.

I’ve written about just needing a simple blood test and a simple urine test.  You can even have this done via the usual blood tests you already take if you usually take blood tests.  I have my pcp’s and nephrologist’s blood draw orders combined if they fall within two weeks of each other – with my doctors’  blessings. It’s not cheating, folks; it’s one less needle in your arm as I see it.

Well, what about if you don’t have blood tests regularly?  You could ask your PCP to write you orders for this. Most won’t do so without a visit, though.  Let’s say you don’t have the money, or can’t get an appointment early enough.  What then?K.E.E.P.

That’s where K.E.E.P. comes in. The acronym stands for Kidney Early Evaluation Program and is offered by the National Kidney Fund.  According to their website, this is what is offered.

  • Risk Survey

  • Body Mass Index (BMI): Height and Weight Measurements

  • Blood pressure check

  • ACR urine test for albumin (a type of protein) – For individuals at risk only!

  • Free educational materials

  • Opportunity to speak with a health care professional

Notice, no blood test.  Think of K.E.E.P. as a place to begin your kidney education. That risk survey and the urine test for “at risk” individuals are important parts of the program.  Over 50 – go to a K.E.E.P. event. Over 70 – definitely go to one.  These are not the only “at risk” definers, though. Add in the following.

  • Anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes

  • Anyone with a family history of kidney failure

  • African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders and American Indians

  • Individuals who are obese (body mass index of 30 or above)

Now you can see why your BMI is measured and your blood pressure read.   Thank you to the National Kidney Fund at https://www.kidney.org/keephealthy for the above information.  If you’re interested – and I’m sure hoping you are – you can find the locations and dates of these on the upper right hand corner of the same page.  You’ll have to enter your geographical information, but that’s it.

That’s another option, but budgets are being cut all over the place.  So let’s say there’s no K.E.E.P. event near you. What now? How about the Path to Wellness program? What’s that, you say. It’s a partnership between the renal and heart communities for the following purpose according to the website of the Cardio Renal Society of America at http://www.cardiorenalsociety.org/ {The website does seem to be aimed toward medical professionals.}

Public Health Education and Early Detection

Path to Wellness is an integrative community-based screening program addressing the interconnections between kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes. It encourages utilization of community-based or primary care services and empowering a diverse demographic of at-risk patients to make significant, positive changes in their personal well-being and quality of life.

In Arizona, the Arizona Living Well Institute is also involved in this project.  Dr. J. Ivie, the Director of Patient Services at the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona provides a more patient oriented description of the event.

Path to Wellness has already touched close to 400 Arizonans at risk of diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease by providing education, screening, self-management skills and connection to a medical home.  We are scheduling the first screening event of 2015 on Saturday, March 28th at the Salvation Army KROC Corps Community Center near South Mountain in Phoenix.

By the way, they are calling for volunteers to help out at this program, so please contact Dr. James Ivie via any of these methods if this interests you. I was recently made aware that high school students need to perform community service as a graduation requirement and was wondering if this is applicable if the students are over a certain age.  Again, a question for Dr. Ivie.

Phone:         602.845.7905

Fax:              602.845.7955cardiovascular

Address:      360 E. Coronado Rd. #180

                      Phoenix, AZ 85004

Email:          www.azkidney.org

Digital Cover Part 1I like to perform community service, too.  In this case, that service is for my kidney community.  Hmmm,  World Kidney Day is March 12. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 is now available in both print and digital versions on Amazon.com.  The logical connection between the two for me is that World Kidney Book will be the day this book is free.  Remember I offered The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 free on February 2nd because it was my birthday? {Doesn’t every author offer their books free on their birthday?} This works the same way.  You just order the book.Part 2

Here’s how my mind works: I have dissolved in laughter because I just realized I was wondering if What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease is feeling left out because there’s never been a freebie day for that book.  I get it!  It’s a book {but it’s my baby.}Book Cover

Whoa!  I’ve been getting calls that the blog address no longer works.  After a little gentle questioning, it came out that the callers were using the old address: https://gailrae.wordpress.com.  If you use that address, you’ll receive the following message:

“gailrae.wordpress.com is no longer available.  The authors have deleted this site.”  No I didn’t! I just changed the name to gailraegarwood.wordpress.com.  I’ll consider this a reminder to myself to leave well enough alone.

I followed a forum user’s advice to simply change the name, not realizing all the old blogs will be deleted.  I thought the site was being deleted and you would be redirected to the new address for all the blogs.  Silly me.  I am extremely thankful The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and  The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 were published before this mini catastrophe,  but am still not happy with it.  Oh well. Might as well choose it since I have to do the work anyway.

Hang on while I recreate the blog.   Well, actually, if you’re reading this, it’s already recreated.  Yay!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!