In the U.S., kidney disease has skyrocketed, with more than a half-million people currently on dialysis. Kidney disease — as well as the conditions that contribute to it, including diabetes, obesity and hypertension — is often asymptomatic, enabling the condition to progress “silently” for many years. Daniel Glicklich, MD, Medical Director of Kidney Transplant at Westchester Medical Center (WMC), the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), shares the causes and effects of kidney disease, as well as ways to help keep these very important organs functioning and healthy.
- The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each roughly the size of a fist.
- They are located just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine.
- Each day, they filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood, producing 1 to 2 quarts of urine.
Kidneys are important because they:
- Prevent the buildup of wastes and extra fluids in the body
- Stabilize electrolyte levels, such as sodium, potassium and phosphate
- Make hormones that help:
- Regulate blood pressure
- Make red blood cells
- Strengthen bones
- Kidneys process 100 ccs of blood per minute
- Anything less than 20% of function is considered kidney failure, also known as chronic renal failure.
- 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic renal failure.
- More than 100,000 with end-stage renal failure await transplants.
- Kidney failure can occur at any age.
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Hepatitis C
- 17,000 kidney transplants are performed annually. Of these:
- 40% are from living donors
- 60% from deceased donors
- Wait times span an average of 5 to 7 years.
- As more people are living longer, incidents of kidney failure increase.
- Rates are related to high rates of cardiovascular disease
- Organ-rejection rates are approximately 10%, about half of what it was 10 years ago. “Long wait times for a transplant are due to the high success rates of the procedures, combined with an organ supply that has not increased,” says Dr. Glicklich. “In fact, New York has the lowest donation rates in the country. When it comes to organ donation, there are cultural factors, as well. In other countries, it’s assumed that people donate their organs after death. In addition, it’s increasingly difficult to clear living donors, due to more prevalent health conditions, like obesity.”
Kidney Transplants at WMCHealth
- Performs 50 kidney transplants each year.
- WMC has one of the best patient-survival rates of any hospital center in New York State
Supporting Kidney Health
Dr. Glicklich advises taking the following steps to support kidney health, as well as overall health:
- Control your blood pressure and monitor it regularly at home.
- Control diabetes.
- Lose weight.
- Eat a mostly vegetarian diet.
- Follow the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil.