March 8th is World Kidney Day. An estimated 1 in 3 people are at-risk for developing kidney disease. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is the ninth leading cause of death in the United Stated, but Kidney disease can actually be prevented or managed through simple lifestyle changes. World Kidney Day is a good opportunity to highlight simple kidney facts and ways that we all can take charge of our kidney health.

“Kidneys remove waste and extra fluid from the body and regulate body chemicals. Kidneys also play an important role in controlling blood pressure, keeping bones healthy, and creating red blood cells,” said Dr. Peter Hart, Chair of Nephrology, CCH. “Because of this, taking care of our kidneys can be one of the most important things we can do for our health.”

However, it can be very hard to detect CKD. The disease often doesn’t have any symptoms, and is usually detected coincidentally through a routine blood or urine test. If left untreated, CKD can develop into End Stage Renal Disease or full kidney failure. At that point, patients must undergo dialysis or a kidney transplant. Patients should talk to their doctors about kidney health, especially if they display any of the following risk factors:

  • Chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.
  • Being over 50 years old
  • Family history of CKD
  • Being of African, Hispanic, Aboriginal, or Asian heritage

The best way to prevent CKD is to take good care of your body, by limiting foods with high sodium or fat content, taking medications as prescribed, exercising, or not smoking. People of all ages can adopt these habits. Because kidney disease is so common, community awareness of the disease is essential. Since 2015, the Division of Nephrology & Hypertension at Cook County Health has been hosting “Kidney Health,” a free, one-hour educational program designed to spread awareness of kidney function.

“Kidney Health” focuses on the importance of managing co-existing illnesses and healthy lifestyle habits. These important concepts can help reduce the severity of CKD and associated complications. The class is targeted toward those who have recently been diagnosed with kidney disease, as well as friends and family. Approximately 700 patients and family members have attended this free educational session at CCH’ Stroger Hospital and Oak Forest Health Center in the past 3 years.

One patient said that through this course, CCH’ kidney experts are “treating us with knowledge, not medicine.”  Another patient liked the class because they were taught the information they need to make better health choices, but instead of a lecture, they were given encouragement to begin making life changes.  The class incorporates a lot of discussion, allowing participants to ask their questions and talk within the group. Participants leave “Kidney Health” with a better understanding of what changes they may need to make and the benefits of those changes.

If you or anyone you know would benefit from in-depth instruction about kidney function and CKD, you are invited to attend “Kidney Health”.  It is free and registration is not required. Class is held at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital (1969 W. Ogden Ave, Chicago, IL-60612) on the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM in the Clinic F Educational Room, Room 1602 and at Oak Forest Health Center (15900 Cicero Ave, Oak Forest, IL – 60452) for classes on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, from 1:00 – 2:00 PM in Building E, 1st Floor. For more information, please call the Division of Nephrology at (312) 864-4600.