Fairall: Kidney disease continues increase in seniors

Posted 3/20/21

National Kidney Month started in 2006. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the importance of your kidneys and lower risk factors with education.

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Fairall: Kidney disease continues increase in seniors


National Kidney Month started in 2006. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the importance of your kidneys and lower risk factors with education.

The theme for 2021 National Kidney Month is “Living Well with Kidney Disease.” It is estimated 1.7 billion people worldwide die annually from kidney disease.

Kidney disease affects 37 million Americans and kills 90,000 per year. Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death for Americans. It affects one out of seven American adults. Kidney disease is called the “silent killer” because 90% of those who have kidney disease are not aware of it.

It costs Americans nearly $50 billion per year to treat kidney disease. Kidney failure costs Medicare over $35 billion per year.

Kidneys help keep you healthy by regulating fluid levels, activating vitamin D for healthy bones, filtering waste from blood, helping to produce red blood cells, regulating blood pressure and keeping blood minerals in balance.

Causes of kidney disease are diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, family history, being over the age of 60 and being a minority person. Typically, there are no symptoms in early stages of kidney disease.

Some symptoms of kidney disease are pain, fatigue, anemia, coldness, shortness of breath, swelling, insomnia, and changes in urination. Kidney disease can cause nerve damage, heart disease, weak bones, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, kidney failure and anemia. Seniors are the population segment that has the most increases in kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is increasing over 8% per year.

Hypertension and diabetes are the two main causes of kidney problems. More reasons kidney disease is on the rise is because more people fail to eat right, have more stress/anxiety, and drink more alcohol.

Dangerous kidney foods are alcohol, red meat, carbonated beverages, dairy products, artificial sweeteners, table salt, caffeine, genetically modified foods and smoking. Good kidney foods are apples, avocadoes, blueberries, oats, salmon, poultry, broccoli, cauliflower, eggs and water.

Your kidney health can be improved with getting plenty of sleep and increasing your exercise.

Only two options exist to treat chronic kidney disease (renal failure). They are a kidney transplant or dialysis.

There are over 100,000 Americans waiting for a kidney transplant, but 79% die waiting for a transplant. Kidney transplant patients are waitlisted for three to five years, and a transplant can cost $260,000. You need to pay an extra $17,000 per year for anti-rejection drugs. A kidney transplant patient can live an extra 12 to 20 years after being transplanted.

There are nearly 500,000 Americans on dialysis. Every minute, 15 people start dialysis treatments. The hemodialysis procedure cleans your blood by pumping it through a blood compartment dialyzer machine.

Dialysis is very profitable with over 7,500 dialysis clinics in the USA. The average receipts per clinic are $3.3 million, and they have an 18% profit margin (nearly $600,000 per year). The cost of dialysis is nearly $90,000 per year, and the patient must pay $18,000 (20%). Many Americans cannot afford to have dialysis treatments. A kidney patient on dialysis can live an average of only an extra 3.6 years.

It is important to have your urine tested and get a blood glucose, glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and creatinine tests done to catch kidney disease early. It is approximately a 40% cost savings to have dialysis at the home rather than in a dialysis clinic. Medicare has expanded coverage of in-home dialysis machines, supplies, and training; but it does not pay for aides to help you.

Mark and Carol Fairall are authors and elder justice advocates. They are residents of Sun City West.