Poor lifestyle choices biggest cause of kidney ailments

Kenya: Yesterday was World Kidney Day, but it is more than likely that many Kenyans did not even know about the day, or its significance. Yet millions of people in the country today, including over 500,000 youth, suffer from various forms of kidney ailments.

The sad thing is that most of these ailments can be prevented if detected early, but the poor state of Kenya’s public health sector, poverty and lack of knowledge have become deadly agents in the growth of kidney diseases in the country.

As a result, most kidney ailments are discovered when the disease is far advanced and the only options are replacement surgery or dialysis, both very expensive undertakings that have impoverished many of the families affected.

The situation has been made worse by the fact that there are very few public hospitals with dialysis machines, and most of them are in urban areas. The renal unit at Kenyatta National Hospital, the country’s biggest medical referral institution, shows that the number of patients queuing for dialysis has shot up.

The same is the case at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret. Private hospitals, including Nairobi Hospital and Aga Khan University Hospital, tell the same story.

Lifestyle and risk

The biggest causes of kidney failure are diabetes, hypertension, lupus disease, drugs (pain killers) and cancers, among others.

The first two are largely linked to lifestyle and the risk can be prevented by changing eating habits and exercising. Others, like congenital diseases, are not by choice but can be managed if detected early.

Too many people are unaware of the dangers of excessive salt intake. As one gets older, the kidneys’ ability to regulate salt in the body weakens and by simply cutting down on salt, one could eliminate the dangers of kidney disease by lowering the risk of developing high blood pressure.

The same applies to red meat and sugar. In fact, a recent World Health Organisation report recommended that people should reduce their sugar intake by 20 per cent to reduce the risk of diabetes.

The combination of red meat, salt and beer is deadly yet nyama choma (roast meat) eaten with liberal sprinklings of salt and washed down with beer is a favourite pastime of the urban middle class today and is now linked to a rise in hypertension and eventually kidney disease among the younger segment of the working class.

More water

Exercising regularly, reducing salt and red meat intake, drinking more water daily and eating more green vegetables are a sure way of keeping your kidneys healthy.

Meanwhile, the public health sector needs urgent attention by the Government given the flight of doctors to private practice or institutions.

Because just like HIV and cancer, kidney disease is now a major killer.