Rain, Rain, Go Away…

We had a day of rain.  I know that’s not a terribly unusual statement, but this is Arizona. July and August are our rainy months; it’s only April. rainWell, we do know the climate is changing. .. and we do know it’s affecting our health. That includes the rain. How? Most often – aside from sun showers – if it’s raining, the sun isn’t shining.

So? What’s the big deal, I can almost hear you ask. You’re not out there getting your 10 to 15 sunscreenless-before-the-day-heats-up minutes of the best source of vitamin D if it’s raining, my friends. Of course, there are supplements and loads of us, like me, take them. But the gold standard? Natural sunlight.

hammock chairBear even got me a hammock chair so I could sit in the sun really, really comfortably for my 10 to 15 minutes. So comfortably, that I found him in my chair once too often when I wanted to be in it and bought him one of his own. Now we can get at least 10 to 15 minutes together each day.

According to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/nr/Low-Vitamin-D-Levels-Linked-to-Early-Signs-of-KD:

“Researchers found that those who were deficient in vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop albuminuria (a type of protein in the urine) over a period of five years. Albuminuria is an early indication of kidney damage as healthy kidneys capture protein for use in the body.

‘There have been a number of studies establishing a relationship between vitamin D levels and kidney disease,’ said Thomas Manley, Director of Scientific Activities for the National Kidney Foundation. ‘This study supports that relationship and shows that a low vitamin D level increases the likelihood of developing protein in the urine, even among a general population.’”

That’s not all, folks.  I jumped back to my very first Chronic Kidney Disease book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for more information about vitamin D and our kidneys:What is it

“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. Phosphate levels can rise since this is stored in the blood and the bones as is calcium.  With CKD, it’s hard to keep the phosphate levels normal, so you may develop itchiness since the concentration of urea builds up and begins to crystallize through the skin. This is called pruritus.”sun-graphic1

All for the lack of a little sunshine! Yes, I am being dramatic and, yes, you can take supplements, but that’s like drinking juice instead of eating the whole fruit and expecting the same benefits.

IMG_1398In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, I wrote the following:

“I have many more articles in front of me, so I’m going to simply list the areas in which low vitamin D is involved.

  • cardiovascular
  • Chronic Kidney Disease {The purpose of this blog, lest we forget}
  • health hip fracture risk
  • hepatitis B {Have you decided to take the inoculation against this?}
  • hypertension
  • stroke

Got how dangerous low levels of vitamin D can be?  Good.”

Uh-huh, vitamin D is a big deal… especially for us since we have CKD.  According to The National Institutes of Health at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/,vitamin d pills

“A growing body of research suggests that vitamin D might play some role in the prevention and treatment of type 1 … and type 2 diabetes …, hypertension …, glucose intolerance…, multiple sclerosis …, and other medical conditions….”

Oh, there’s also a good possibility that vitamin D deficiency is a factor in obesity. As one who is constantly attempting to lose weight, I have one thing to say about that, “Go.sit.in.the.sun.”

I’ve been getting questions about transplantation, as in how to, what it entails, and who to contact. I don’t have the answers, but the Erma Bombeck Project does. This is from an email I received from The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona:

ErmaToday, over 100,000 Americans are waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant. The Erma Bombeck Project provides facts and reliable resources to help individuals save a life – whether by registering to be a non-living organ donor, or considering the gift of life through living donation. The project aims to narrow the gap between the number of individuals desperately waiting for a kidney and the number of kidneys available.

We invite you to visit the new, improved site www.ErmaBombeckProject.orgwhere you can find features like:

Facts on kidney donation
A free, downloadable Living Donor Guide
Living Donor Educational Videos
Links to additional resources

I urge you to take a look at the site should this interest you … and I really hope it interests you.

I finally got my print copy of SlowItDownCKD 2015 and am so pleased with the way it turned out that I am seriously considering redoing the SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)formats for The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 and 2.  Those orphan (standing all alone) blog titles at the bottom of the page always bothered me. Of course, there won’t be any difference if you purchased the digital copy of the books.

In a few days, I’ll be on my way to San Antonio – specifically Lackland Air Force Base – where my step daughter’s sweetheart will graduate from basic training. I’m eager to try out my on-the-road exercise and food ideas during the 14 plus hour drive. Bear is going too, of course, so I’ll have my staunchest supporter with me. And Lara is very respectful of my needs and has even offered to water walk with me since the hotel has a pool. This should be fun! Anyone have any sightseeing recommendations?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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Sunshine and Superwoman

sad womanToday is just one of those days: Bear’s car is in the shop so I got up early to take him to work, I turned on the dishwasher and nothing happened, I posted what I thought was a non-political message and got a political rant in return, answered a text only to find that my childhood friend thought I was ignoring her.  I’ve got a pretty happy life, so this was a disconcerting start of the day to say the least.

And then I opened the lab results for yet another blood test.  The one I wrote about two weeks ago was from August; this one is from last week. Should have saved it for tomorrow.

While the out of range results weren’t that much out of range, they were out of range.  Since this is one of those days, all of a sudden this became of great concern to me.

The Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy, Total was 28.6 instead of within the 30.1 -100 normal range.  It would probably help you understand my mystification if I let you know that I’ve been taking 2000 mg. of vitamin D daily for several years.

I went running right back to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to find out why this is important.  Thank goodness, I have my office copy!  How could anyone memorize everything they need to know about their health, I wonder.Book Cover

This is what I wrote about vitamin D (page 48):

  • 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.
  • Phosphate levels can rise since this is stored in the blood and the bones as is calcium.  With CKD, it’s hard to keep the phosphate levels normal, so you may develop itchiness since the concentration of urea builds up and begins to crystallize through the skin. This is called pruritus.

I have been itchy lately, but since my phosphate levels have never been out of range, I concluded it was just dry skin due to our low to nil humidity here in Arizona.  Maybe it’s not.  We’d been keeping my calcium levels low – but in range – since a bout with kidney stones several years ago. I also definitely stay out of the sun, another source of vitamin D, since a

sun-graphic1pre-cancerous face lesion. I’d had a bone density test recently and that was just fine, but had I been doing all the wrong things for my kidney health in protecting myself from kidney stones and melanoma?

Something was nagging at me about vitamin D, so I turned to the glossary of my book (page 136) and that’s where I found it:

“Vitamin D: Regulates calcium and phosphorous blood levels as well as promoting bone formation, among other tasks – affects the immune system.”

Affects the immune system.  But how?  Science Daily at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100307215534.htm provided the answer I sought:

“Scientists have found that vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin – the killer cells of the immune system — T cells — will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. The research team found that T cells first search for vitamin D in order to activate and if they cannot find enough of it will not complete the activation process.”

How did I miss that?  And how many others knew that vitamin D didn’t just build strong bones as we’d been taught in primary school?

nsaidsI imagine my nephrologist will up my vitamin d dosage when I see him next week, but I still can’t handle the sun or take calcium supplements.  Maybe there’s some food that can provide vast quantities of this vitamin.

But no, according to the National Institutes of Health at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/:

“Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement.”

Well, I wanted to know what those foods were even if they could only provide 20% of the needed vitamin d at most.  I clearly remembered salmon, tuna, and egg yolks, but what else?  Mushrooms, of course.  And???

I had to turn to the internet for more suggestions. Fit Day at http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/vitamins-minerals/5-foods-rich-in-vitamin-d.html informs us that milk, cereal, and even orange juice are vitamin d fortified. For me, that’s a joke.  I’m lactose intolerant, don’t like cereal, and o.j. has too much calcium in it.

I like fish, but two to three times a week?  I’m not sure I want to spend my five ounces of protein that way so often during a week.  I don’t care for eggs much, but am willing to eat them once a week just to eat something healthy. Mushrooms are really tasty, but my ¼ cup doesn’t go very far.

You know, just from moving myself to write, it doesn’t seem like such a bad day after all.IMG_0058

Which leads me to a thought I want to share: action is the road out of unhappiness.  I’m sure someone has thought of that before, but I own it now.  To that end, I’m working on The Book of Blogs and two other long time writing projects as well as having committed myself to Landmark Worldwide’s Wisdom Course.

Of course I still take the time to exercise (ugh!), sleep, and rest, but these projects are fun… and they make me happy.  We are capable of so much more than we think we are.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Dizzying Array of D Vitamins

I’ve been taking vitamin D supplements for seven years and apparently I’ve become complacent about them.  When Bear’s PCP prescribed vitamin D supplements for him, I piped up telling her we have mine at home and – if the dosage was what he needed -could probably just share the bottle.

Bear checked it when we got home and asked, “These are D3.  Can I take them?”  Bing!  Today’s blog. I didn’t know if he could take them, but did know it was time to research the D vitamins again.

Let’s start at the beginning.  What does vitamin D do for us? According to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease,  it “Regulates calcium and phosphorous blood levels as well as promoting bone formation, among other tasks – affects the immune system.”  Short, sweet, and to the point.Book Cover

But I think we need more here. Why are there are different kinds of vitamin D? I went to Buzzle (my new favorite for easily understood renal information) at http://www.buzzle.com/articles/different-types-of-vitamin-d.html and hit pay dirt on my first foray.

There are five different types of vitamin D.  It seems to me that the source designates which number it is.  For example, vitamin D2 comes from plants, small invertebrates, and fungus (Pay attention, vegans.) while the D3 that I take is manufactured synthetically. The designation D1 is no longer used, D4 is such a recent discovery that not much is known about it, and D5 is not technically a vitamin.images

By the way, if your vitamin bottle doesn’t have a number after the D, that means it’s D2 or D3. You should know that the kidneys are responsible for transforming calcitriol into active vitamin D.

So, the sunshine vitamin is produced by our own bodies, but sometimes not at the rate we need it.  Hence, we are prescribed vitamin supplements.  As Chronic Kidney Disease patients, we need the extra vitamin D – whether from nature (D2) or synthetically produced (D3).

Why you ask? DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/diet-and-nutrition/diet-basics/the-abcs-of-vitamins-for-kidney-patients/e/5311 offers us this handy information:

Vitamin D Helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus; deposits   these minerals in bones and teeth; regulates parathyroid hormone (PTH) In CKD the kidney loses the ability to make vitamin D   active.  Supplementation with special active vitamin D is determined by   calcium, phosphorus and PTH levels….

The site also suggests that vitamin D be by prescription only and closely monitored.  Since it was my PCP who prescribed it for me (seven years ago as a CKD patient) and for Bear (last week and not a CKD patient), I’m wondering if that caveat is for end stage Chronic Kidney Disease patients.

Notice we have a new term in the description above – parathyroid hormone. That’s not as odd as it sounds.  There is currently a controversy as to whether vitamin D is a vitamin or a hormone, since it is the only vitamin produced by the body.  Parathyroid hormone (PTH) explained:

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.

fishAnd here you thought the kidneys worked alone to control these levels in the blood.  Thanks to MedLine Plus at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003690.htm for correcting us. This National Institutes of Health site is a constant fount of pretty much any kind of health information you may need.

Okay, so let’s say you don’t take the vitamin D supplements you need.  What happens to you then? I jumped right on to the Mayo Clinic site at http://www.mayoclinic.org/vitamin-d-deficiency/expert-answers/FAQ-20058397, but found their answer too general for my needs: “Vitamin D deficiency — when the level of vitamin D in your body is too low — can cause your bones to become thin, brittle or misshapen.”

The irony of this is that we live in the sunshine state.  Only 20 minutes of sun a day could give us the vitamin D we need… and melanoma.  Having had a brush with a precancerous growth already, I’m not willing to take the chance; hence, the supplements.

Let’s not forget that vitamin D also helps absorb calcium and phosphorous, so it’s not just your bones that are at stake, important as they are. I went back to the National Institutes of Health at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-QuickFacts/ for more information. This is what they have to say:

Vitamin D is important to the body in many other ways as well. Muscles need it to move, for example, nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part, and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.

Aha!  Keep in mind that as CKD patients our immune systems are already compromised and you’ll realize just how important this vitamin is to us.sun-graphic1

Let’s try it the other way.  Let’s say you are so gung ho on the benefits of vitamin D supplementation, that you take more than your doctor prescribed.  Is that a problem?  According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/the-truth-about-vitamin-d-can-you-get-too-much-vitamin-d  it is:

Too much vitamin D can cause an abnormally high blood calcium level, which could result in nausea, constipation, confusion, abnormal heart rhythm, and even kidney stones.

To sum up, you may be vitamin D deficient.  Your blood tests will let you know.  If it is recommended you take vitamin D supplements, stick to the prescribed dosage – no more, no less.  While some foods like fatty fishes can offer you vitamin D, it’s not really enough to make a difference.

I get so caught up in my research that I often forget to mention what’s happening with the book or SlowItDown.  Back were discussed on this podcast http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/mathea-ford-2/renal-diet-headquarters?refid=stpr.  Renal Diet Headquarters interviewed me and I had a ball!  I must learn to be quiet just a little and let the interviewer get to ask the questions before I start answering them!

kidney-book-coverSlowItDown also has a new website at www.gail-rae.com. I would appreciate your feedback on this.

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day by yourself, with your love, your family, your friends, your animals, whoever you spent it with.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

So Is It A Good Thing Or Not?

I cannot begin to tell you how eager I am for the second cataract surgery.  The repaired eye sees so well that the other one seems worse than it really is.

In my big ten minutes of reading at a time while the repaired eye continues to heal, I’ve seen the same word over and over again. It isn’t a word I usually expect to see: statin.  According to Macmillandictionary.com, it means “a drug that is used to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood.”

 This class of drugs can have a different name in other countries. It preforms its miracle by inhibiting a key enzyme while encouraging the receptor binding of LDL-cholesterol (Low-density lipoprotein which causes health problems and cardiovascular disease), resulting in decreased levels of serum cholesterol (that’s cholesterol in the blood stream) and LDL-cholesterol and increased levels of HDL-cholesterol.

I don’t know about you, but I went running back to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to remind myself what that all means. From the glossary, I understood that dyslipidemia means abnormal levels of cholesterol, triglycerides or both. Well then, what does HDL-cholesterol do? What else? This so called good cholesterol fights LDL-cholesterol.  This is important because what we call the bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) can build up in your arties and may even block them eventually. Look at page 97 in the book for a clear diagram of just how this affects your blood pressure.

Let’s get to the articles now. One from this past June suggests that statins may cause fatigue and that women may experience this more than men. Notice the mention of vitamin D production in the article at:  http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/06/25/hlsb0626.htm

Study links statin use to fatigue

One possible reason is that reducing cholesterol levels can lead to the production of less vitamin D.

All right, I’m a woman.  I take statins. I’m fatigued, but I take vitamin D supplements.  Back to the sleep apnea exploration for me.

Then in July, only one month later, this article appeared in The New York Times:

 Women May Benefit Less From Statins

Many studies have found that statins reduce the risk for recurring cardiac problems, but not the risk for death. Now an analysis suggests that the drugs may reduce mortality significantly only in men.

You can read more about this at: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/02/women-may-benefit-less-from-statins/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Back in February of this year, The New York Times was warning us about the possible side effects of statins, albeit rare ones:

Safety Alerts Cite Cholesterol Drugs’ Side Effects

Federal health officials on Tuesday added new safety alerts to the prescribing information for statins, the cholesterol-reducing medications that are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, citing rare risks of memory loss, diabetes and muscle pain.

The entire article is located at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/health/fda-warns-of-cholesterol-drugs-side-effects.html?_r=3

Hmmm, my primary care doctor has been monitoring me for muscle pain since we met.  She has already changed my statins three times in the last five years.  As for the memory loss, who can tell?  I’m at that age, you know. Diabetes can be a problem.  You take statins to reduce your LDL cholesterol so that you don’t end up with high blood pressure, but it may cause diabetes. Which is the lesser of the two evils? Read on for help from USA Today this month to make that decision.

Benefits of cholesterol-cutting drugs outweigh diabetes risk

The benefits of taking cholesterol-lowering medications outweigh the increased risk some patients have of developing diabetes from using the drugs, a report out Thursday says.

Patients who were at higher risk for diabetes were 39% less likely to develop a cardiovascular illness on statins and 17% less likely to die. Patients who were not already at risk for diabetes and were taking statins had a 52% reduction in cardiovascular illness, and no increase in diabetes risk.

“When we focus only on the risk (of diabetes) we may be doing a disservice to our patients,” says lead author Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “As it turns out for this data, the hazard of being on a statin is limited almost entirely to those well on their way to getting diabetes.”

Here’s where you can find that article: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-08-09/statins-diabetes/56920686/1?csp=34news&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+UsatodaycomHealth-TopStories+%28News+-+Health+-+Top+Stories%29

Also this month, there was good news about statins:

 Statins reduce pancreatitis risk

Statins reduce the risk for pancreatitis in patients with normal or mildly elevated triglyceride levels, say the authors of a large meta-analysis.

The address?  It’s: http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120824/Statins-reduce-pancreatitis-risk.aspx

My all time favorite appeared in The New York Times as a blog in March of this year.

Do Statins Make It Tough to Exercise?

For years, physicians and scientists have been aware that statins, the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, can cause muscle aches and fatigue in some patients. What many people don’t know is that these side effects are especially pronounced in people who exercise.

Do read the rest of it at: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/do-statins-make-it-tough-to-exercise/?smid=tw-nytimeswell&seid=auto

I got this smug sense of satisfaction at a hit against exercise… until I realized I still had to exercise so I could keep my organs healthy.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Being in the midst of cataract surgeries, I could not help myself.  I had to include this month’s article from Medical News Today even though it doesn’t mention ckd. The article’s address is: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248785.php

Cataracts Risk Associated With Statins    
     
     

A new study, appearing in the August issue of Optometry and Vision Science , has found that patients might have an increased risk of developing age-related cataracts if they use cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

We know I’m older and I use cholesterol lowering statins.  But I am getting better eye sight than I ever had (I think).

Note: I may have been too quick to condemn Medical ID Fashions.  The rhodium replacement bracelet they sent when I complained the first bracelet of brass, copper and silver both tarnished and wasn’t waterproof seems to be doing well.  It’s too shiny for me, but it is waterproof and hasn’t tarnished.  I also discovered this company donates $2.00 of every purchase to one of six charities. Maybe they just didn’t receive my first and second emails.

Before I forget, the book is not only available in Europe now, but it’s on sale in India too. Amazing.

I’ve given you enough homework to last more than a week!  Uh-oh, getting back into teacher mode.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!