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Prevention key to addressing kidney disease

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Much has been written about the coming epidemic of diabetes in Canada, and specifically here in Manitoba. The fears are legitimate, for the number of people with diabetes is expected to increase by 25% in the next decade.


Imagine the total impact of diabetes on Canadians as a large wave crashing into our shoreline. Like that wave, we know other powerful waves come behind it. In this case, a subsequent wave is end stage renal disease or ESRD.


How do we know this? Nationally 25.9% of new cases of ESRD are a result of diabetes. This rate jumps to 38.3% in Manitoba, the largest percentage in the country.  


How are diabetes and kidney disease related? A kidney contains approximately one million filters that clean the blood and produce urine. Over time, diabetes can damage these filters.

Early kidney damage can be detected by finding higher than normal levels of protein in the urine. Later damage to the filters and other parts of the kidneys can worsen, causing loss of kidney function. Unfortunately one has to have a suspicion something is wrong in order to have these tests taken because physical symptoms are usually not present.


Sadly, the situation is even more acute in Manitoba’s aboriginal communities. People living in these areas are three to five times as likely to develop kidney disease and diabetes as members of the general population.


The Kidney Foundation of Canada is working in three communities to implement Our Children Their Health Our Future, a culturally-relevant health-based curriculum that shows the relationship between physical fitness, nutrition and kidney disease. The lessons we have learned during our work there are applicable to everyone:


1) Teach children good habits before bad ones form: Teaching children at an early age is crucial as our messages pertaining to healthy lifestyle are competing for their attention with fast food conglomerates, junk food producers, and makers of video games and other activities that encourage a sedentary lifestyle.


Children are valued in the aboriginal community for their role in bringing important information into the home that educates their elders.


2) The importance of a healthy diet: Sodium contributes to high blood pressure and affects the levels of fluids in your body. Processed foods like packaged dinners, potato chips and lunch meat are very high in sodium and should be avoided. Foods high in sugar are also bad for the body. Drinking one can of soda per day for a year is the equivalent of consuming a large water cooler jug full of sugar.


3) Regular exercise is good for the body: Regular exercise increases blood flow, improves muscle tone, burns calories and keeps the body’s organs healthy too.


There is no cure for kidney disease so prevention activities like the ones above are crucial to prevent the acquisition of kidney disease and diabetes.


For more information on kidney disease, visit www.kidney.ca/manitoba.


Val Dunphy is the executive director of the Manitoba branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

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