A kidney disease diagnosis can change your life, so it’s important to be aware of the risks.
Everyone understands how important the heart, lungs, and brain are to our health and survival, but the kidneys — two unassuming bean-shaped, fist-sized organs located just below the rib cage — are often overlooked.
“Kidney disease is a serious health issue and many Canadians don’t know that,” says Elizabeth Myles, National Executive Director of The Kidney Foundation of Canada. “Kidneys primarily function to eliminate waste, regulate water, help balance minerals, and produce hormones in the body. If somebody’s kidneys fail, it’s a life-threatening issue that’s only managed by going on dialysis or having a kidney transplant.”
National Executive Director, The Kidney Foundation of Canada
A silent disease
Understanding what kidney disease is and being aware of its risk factors is essential, particularly since one in ten Canadians either have kidney disease or are at risk. In many cases, kidney disease can be prevented or, if identified early, its progression can be slowed.
Most kidney diseases attack the filtering units of the kidneys — the nephrons — impacting their ability to eliminate wastes and excess fluids. “The leading risk factors are diabetes and high blood pressure,” says Myles. “Family history can also be a risk factor.”
Unfortunately, kidney disease can be a silent disease. “Often, you may not know you have it until permanent damage has been done,” says Myles.
Kidneys primarily function to eliminate waste, regulate water, help balance minerals, and produce hormones in the body.
A life-changing diagnosis
National Board Member, The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Cyril Muise, a Calgary-based volunteer and National Board Member with The Kidney Foundation of Canada, was diagnosed with kidney failure in 1998. “I didn’t have any real warning signs,” he recalls. “I had been doing regular check-ups with my family physician and I was very healthy.”
The diagnosis impacted Muise and his family’s lives dramatically. He went on dialysis and eventually received a kidney transplant from his wife. Over two decades later, he’s still in constant contact with his transplant team and receives regular check-ups.
Muise’s experience led him to The Kidney Foundation of Canada, where he received invaluable support. “The Kidney Foundation gave me the knowledge to take better charge of my life and my health,” he says.
In the process, Muise became a passionate advocate for kidney research, prevention, and supportive services for people living with kidney disease.
The Kidney Foundation provides a range of services, programs, and education to help Canadians with kidney disease and those at risk, including information about treatments, peer support, kidney-friendly recipes, and more. “We also have a risk awareness quiz, at kidney.ca/risk, and we invite everybody to spend a few minutes to identify if they’re at risk,” says Myles.