March is National Kidney Month, with March 11 being World Kidney Day. This initiative is all about raising awareness of the importance of kidney health for our overall health and wellbeing. 1 in 10 people have some degree of kidney disease and it can develop at any age.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a progressive loss of kidney function over months or years. Your kidneys are comprised on millions of filters called nephrons. If these nephrons become damaged and their function is impaired, it can lead to other nephrons to shutting down until the kidneys can no longer filter your blood at all. Once this function drops below a certain level this is diagnosed as CKD and can impact your whole body, leaving you feeling sick and potentially life threatening. CKD can progress to kidney failure.
CKD can have no signs or symptoms early on with some people losing 90% of kidney function before experiencing any adverse symptoms. The earlier you receive the diagnosis, the better you’re chances of receiving effective treatment. Some symptoms you may notice are swollen ankles, fatigue, reduced appetite, and bloody/foam urine. Kidney function can be measured via a blood test where doctors can look at your results and determine if kidney function is normal or not.
Some major causes of CKD can be high blood pressure and diabetes. These two diseases are lifestyle diseases, meaning they can be modified or improved via lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. By improving your health, you can significantly lower your risk of developing CKD.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for CKD but there are treatments that aim to slow the disease progression, assist with management, and prevent comorbidities. The main treatments are proper diet and medication, with end stage renal disease requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation. Exercise may not be a cure for CKD but it can certainly help with improving strength, physical function, blood pressure, body composition, and sleep levels.
It is recommended you chat with you doctor prior to starting any new exercise, and start your exercise program with an Exercise Physiologist to ensure you are exercising effectively and safely. Exercise should start with low-level continuous aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, cycling, etc) and low-level strengthening exercise. Those with CKD should avoid exercising if you have changed your dialysis schedule, medication schedule, if you have eaten too much or if you notice a change in your physical condition.