DEAR ABBY: Like many other young adults, I was too busy establishing a career during my 20s and early 30s to care much about diet and exercise. I felt healthy, so I saw no need to change my lifestyle. My doctor had told me my blood pressure was elevated during a number of my yearly physical exams, but I didn't ask any questions and took no action.
Then one morning, I walked into my doctor's office complaining of a severe headache and nausea. I was sent to the hospital with a dangerously high blood pressure reading. After just a few tests, I was told I had chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Even though it can be silent and cause no symptoms, high blood pressure should not be ignored. It is a leading cause of kidney disease, and because I didn't pay attention, my kidneys began to shut down. Abby, please tell your readers who are at risk for chronic kidney disease (and that's anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of CKD) to check how their kidneys are functioning. I found out -- too late -- how important it is. -- AZIZA M., NEW YORK CITY
DEAR AZIZA: Of course I will pass on your warning. According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 26 million adults and thousands of American children have chronic kidney disease -- and most of them don't know they have it. In addition, millions of people who have diabetes, hypertension and other diseases are unaware that they too are at risk for developing it.
Readers, March 10 is World Kidney Day. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is offering free screenings during the month of March through the Kidney Early Evaluation Program in cities and towns around the country. With more than 50 local offices nationwide, the NKF provides early detection screenings and other vital patient and community services. To find a screening near you, visit www.kidney.org.
DEAR ABBY: One day, after dropping my son "Wyatt" off at day care, I looked back and saw an older kid push him and take away my son's toy. I was furious. What happened next restored my faith and softened my heart. A little girl walked over, handed Wyatt the toy she had been playing with and patted him on the head! I was very moved that someone so young understood compassion and was willing to give up something she enjoyed so my son wouldn't be upset.
Abby, please remind your readers that the littlest gesture can change someone's life. I'm glad I stopped to take another look at my son that day. I can't thank that little girl enough. -- THANKFUL FOR LITTLE ONES, LEMAY, MO.
DEAR THANKFUL: I'm glad you stopped for that second look, too. You are absolutely right that the smallest gesture can change someone's life -- and that statement applies to people of every age and from every walk of life. There are angels among us, and you saw one of the littlest.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)