DEAR ABBY: I thought I was a healthy 40-year-old until I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. My doctor began treating it as a stand-alone condition, without considering that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for kidney disease.
At first, I wasn't even tested for kidney disease. But eventually, he gave me a urine test, and it was discovered that I had protein in my urine -- one of the earliest signs of kidney damage. Apparently, my high blood pressure had damaged my kidneys.
Healthy kidneys filter out wastes and toxins, but my kidneys' ability to do so began to decrease at an alarming rate. I continued to manage my blood pressure with medication and decided to make a few lifestyle changes, as well, that helped me avoid the progression of kidney disease to kidney failure.
I limited my salt intake, started eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, decreased the amount of meat I was eating and began swimming every day. I began to feel better, and when I went to the doctor, it turned out my kidney function had stabilized.
Please tell your readers that if they have high blood pressure they should be proactive and ask their doctor to check their kidneys. Early detection and lifestyle change can make a major impact on your health, as I have learned. -- DUANE SUNWOLD, SPOKANE, WASH.
DEAR DUANE: It is generous of you to share your medical history in an effort to caution my readers. The National Kidney Foundation urges everyone to learn about these vital organs and whether they might be at risk.
The three major risk factors for kidney disease are: high blood pressure, diabetes and a family history of kidney failure. People who have these risk factors should ask their doctor to check their kidney function with a simple blood and urine test.
Readers, March is National Kidney Month, and March 13 is World Kidney Day. If you are at risk, schedule an appointment with your doctor. For anyone who needs more information, the National Kidney Foundation's website is kidney.org.