The Importance of Kidney Donation
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a very overlooked and under-recognized affliction that affects approximately 30 million Americans -- the vast majority (96%) of whom don't even know it. In 2013, more than 47,000 Americans died of kidney disease. While this may seem grim, it's important to realize the disease's prevalence and how it works. CKD is an affliction that causes the kidneys to cease functioning. Since the kidneys are responsible for filtering waste out of the bloodstream, it goes without saying that when they stop working, other health complications will arise; and while it's true that if left untreated it will result in fatality, it is a perfectly treatable, not curable, ailment. There are two methods to treat CKD: dialysis or organ transplantation. Dialysis is the most timely, cost-effective way of treating CKD, but again, it's not a cure. Dialysis cleanses the blood via machines that, in effect, replace the kidneys. Even though it's an effective treatment, many people complain that it's time-consuming and inconvenient because the patient needs to visit a dialysis center or hospital an upwards of 3 or 4 times per week, each session lasting a few hours, for the rest of their life. A more permanent, yet complex, solution is transplantation.
Kidney transplantation is a one-time surgery that replaces dying or dead kidneys with healthy ones from a donor (living or deceased). With a few lifestyle changes and supplementary medication, the patient can return to normal life. "If it's so effective, why doesn't everybody receive it?", you may be thinking. Well, there are a few complications -- and they're not the easiest to overcome.
Healthy Kidney Demand
The number of CKD patients vastly outweighs the number of healthy, available kidneys. It's as simple as that. Patients can wait for years on the waiting list before a compatible donor is found. Currently, an estimated 93,000 patients are on the kidney donor list awaiting transplant. Patients' transplantation viability is measured on a number of factors, the main ones being:
Blood Type Matters
While it's not the biggest determining factor in locating a viable donor, it definitely matters in terms of quality of life after the transplant. It's possible to receive a donated kidney from the wrong blood type (aka ABO incompatible), but a lot of extra medical care will be required both before and after the procedure since organ rejection will be more likely.
However, tissue type also plays a role. When it's determined that a potential donor has compatible blood types, another test is done to compare genetic markers that indicate further compatibility. Because of this, the best way to find kidney donors is within your own family. Siblings have a 25% chance of being an exact match and a 50% chance of being a half match.
Live or Deceased Organ Donors -- Which is Better?
There are two types of kidney donors in this world: those that are alive and those that are deceased. The majority of live donors are family or friends of the patient, around 7,000 per year, in fact. Meanwhile, around 13,000 kidneys per year are donated from deceased donors. This fact skews the statistics regarding wait time for kidney transplant. Since many of the living donors are family or close friends to the patient, the average wait time for a live donor transplant is around 1 year. However, if the patient needs to receive a transplant from a deceased donor, the wait can take years, if a viable kidney is even found at all.
Organ donation is an uncomfortable topic for some people. It's natural that we don't like to face our own mortality, but the reality is that becoming a donor after death can save many innocent lives at no real cost to you.
If you or a loved one currently or are at risk of chronic kidney disease, schedule a consultation today. The sooner you visit, the greater the chances we can help you navigate the path to a healthy life.
The DASH Diet for Kidney Health
People who are worried that they are at risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) often wonder what types of things they can do to take charge of their own health and reduce their risk of CKD progressing further. There are plenty of things one can do to improve kidney health (or at least prolong degradation). CKD is caused by other underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, so addressing those issues will go a long way in preserving kidney health. Things such as quitting smoking, frequent exercise, staying hydrated, cutting down on alcohol and eating healthy are all major contributors to slowing the progression of kidney disease.
But one thing might be nagging you: you always hear about "eating healthy". But what exactly does that mean? And is there a way to eat healthier to reduce the risk of kidney disease? The answer to these questions is to integrate the DASH diet into your lifestyle.
Please note that those already on dialysis should not participate in the DASH diet. Dialysis patients consult with dieticians to receive custom-tailored regimens on a case-by-case basis.
What is the DASH Diet?
DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a way of eating that, well, puts a quash to hypertension. And since hypertension is a major source for CKD and the diet has so many additional health benefits, nutritionists recommend it for those that are at high risk of kidney disease. It encourages foods that are high in potassium -- fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy -- high in fiber, low in fat, with plenty of magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus, all of which are beneficial to both heart and kidney health.
What Foods Can I Eat on the DASH Diet?
The word "diet" tends to deter people because often, the first things that comes to mind are temporary fads that are ultimately unsustainable in order to benefit in the short-term but offer no crucial health benefits in the long run. But don't automatically rule DASH out. It's not a fad diet -- it's a lifestyle changer. Those that participate in DASH are still able to eat the dishes that they know and love; there are just a few restrictions and modifiers to take into account. Plenty of cookbooks have been published to provide creative, delicious meals for those on the DASH diet. They also modify existing popular recipes to cater to those on DASH. Here are just a few examples of foods that can be created while adhering to DASH:
There are hundreds of delicious recipes that will satisfy both your appetite and the need to retain a healthy heart and kidneys. As you become accustomed to the various types of foods that are permitted within DASH, you can even start experimenting on your own to figure out what you most love!
The DASH diet has many health benefits aside from maintaining heart and kidney health. It assists in weight loss and will help to energize you throughout the day. So even if you're not suffering from CKD or hypertension, adopting elements of DASH into your everyday life can go a long way in your overall health.