March is National Kidney Month, a time to educate about and raise awareness for what’s often referred to as the silent killer – kidney disease. More than 15% of US adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD), and as many as 90% of those people do not know they have CKD. There are typically no symptoms during kidney disease’s early stages, leading to late or missed diagnoses.
On this month’s episodes of Sustaining Hawaii, Rick Hamada spoke with several experts to help listeners better understand their kidney health risks. On the March 7 episode, Why Kidney Health Matters, he was joined by President & CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii, Glen Hayashida, along with Chair of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, City Councilmember and former Hawaii State Senator, Randy Iwase, to discuss their advocacy and how kidney disease has impacted them personally.
“My second son, Jared, passed away on May 28, 2018 of chronic kidney disease. What I came out of that learning is that I knew nothing about chronic kidney disease,” Randy explained. “Unbeknownst to me, he was suffering from chronic kidney disease, nicknamed the silent killer. In January he was diagnosed. That's how quick it was -- four months. And Jan and I decided we have to do something to educate the public about how severe and how deadly chronic kidney disease is. That's why we're here.”
Glen articulates why this disease is so insidious. “The kidney is so resilient,” he emphasizes. “It's so strong that you could lose virtually up to 85% of your kidney function before you even start having symptoms. So just imagine one day you start feeling kind of tired all the time, and something's just not right. So you go to the emergency room and then that's the first time you hear that your kidneys are failing. But by that point in time, it's really too late.”
On the March 15 episode, Jennifer Oyer and Jenna Copley of the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii joined Rick to discuss the impact nutrition and diet can have on your kidneys.
“Nutrition is so critical for preventing lots of different kinds of diseases, especially kidney disease,” Jenna explains. “The main causes of kidney disease are hypertension and diabetes. So when we look at having a healthier diet over a longer period of time, that's how we can stop those diseases.”
“The way that we want to start making changes is to find the ones that are the most sustainable for you,” Jennifer shares. “So maybe when you are on a ‘peak’ you would eat fresh every single day, and [your diet] would be absolutely perfect. But when we're looking at these long-term changes, we want to find the changes that are right for you and that won't go away over time. It's all about finding something that you can stick to.”
Need a reason to work harder to protect your kidneys? Just think about how hard they work for you! “Our kidneys actually filter through 53 gallons of blood every single day,” Jennifer adds. “Imagine more than a bathtub-full of blood being filtered through your kidneys!”
Other than maintaining a health diet, what can you do monitor your kidney health? The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases want you to talk to your doctor and get tested. Remember – early kidney disease typically has no symptoms, so testing may be the only way to identify a problem before it’s too late.