By Dr Lee Fang Jann, Consultant Urologist, Starmed Specialist Centre
Singapore has one of the highest rates of kidney failure in the world with one person diagnosed with kidney failure every 5 hours. Kidney disease can happen quickly as the result of severe illness and injury, but most often develops slowly and silently until the kidneys have nearly failed. You can protect your kidneys by taking the following simple steps:
Keeping fit helps to reduce your blood pressure, stave off weight gain and therefore reduce the risk of developing kidney disease. Aim to be active for 30 minutes or more on most days.
Singapore ranks 1st in the world for diabetes-induced kidney failure and 2 in 3 cases of kidney failure in Singapore are due to diabetes. High blood sugar damage the blood vessels and the millions of tiny filtering units in the kidney over time leading to kidney failure.
Although many people are aware that high blood pressure can lead to a stroke or heart attack, few know that it is also a common cause of kidney damage. Aim to maintain your blood pressure below 130/85 mmHg. Certain blood pressure medications are protective of the kidneys and may be prescribed by your doctor to retard the deterioration of your kidney function.
Healthy eating help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with kidney disease. It is also important to reduce your salt intake. The average daily salt intake of a Singaporean is 9 grams instead of the recommended 5 grams (one tablespoon). There is good evidence that a reduction of salt intake helps to lower blood pressure in both healthy individuals and individuals with high blood pressure. Try to limit the amount of processed and restaurant food and do not add salt to food.
Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it impairs their ability to function properly. Smoking increases your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, which is associated with a higher risk of kidney disease. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50 per cent.
Conventional wisdom suggests that we should drink at least 8 glasses of fluid a day to maintain good health. The actual amount necessary for good kidney health varies between individuals depending on gender, weight, physical activity, environment and underlying medical conditions. In addition, people who have already had a kidney stone are advised to drink 2 to 3 litres of water daily to lessen the risk of forming a new stone.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are known to cause kidney damage if taken regularly. Occasional consumption is generally safe if your kidneys are healthy. However, if you need to take them for a prolonged period (for example for chronic pain), then speak with your doctor to find a way to control your pain without putting your kidneys at risk.
If you have either diabetes or high blood pressure, your doctor should screen you for kidney dysfunction as part of the routine care for the conditions.
The kidneys are as important to health as your heart and lungs. The most important thing you can do to keep your kidneys safe is to take care of your body to reduce your chances of developing diseases that put a strain on your kidneys.
Dr Lee Fang Jann is a fully accredited Urologist by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Medical Council (SMC) practising at Starmed Specialist Centre. Starmed Specialist Centre is a one-stop private ambulatory care centre in Singapore, conveniently located in Central Singapore, just above Farrer Park MRT. They provide medical services performed on an outpatient basis, without hospital admission.