Did you know that your life depends on your kidneys? Every March, BC Renal runs special campaigns to raise awareness about kidney health, kidney disease risk factors, and early diagnosis of kidney disease. Sharing information and resources, these campaigns promote kidney health and overall well-being, providing vital information to help prevent life-threatening kidney failure.
“This is so important considering two key statistics,” says Gloria Freeborn, BC Renal director of strategic initiatives, education and development. “One in 10 British Columbians is living with kidney disease and many don’t know it. Also, people can lose up to 80% of kidney function before they notice any symptoms. When kidney disease is diagnosed early, it can often be managed through changes in lifestyle and medication, avoiding kidney failure and the need for life-sustaining dialysis or a kidney transplant.”
Broadly speaking, the five main risk factors for kidney disease are diabetes, heart/circulation disease, high blood pressure, ethnicity, and family history of kidney disease.
BC Renal’s free online Kidney Health Check quiz provides people with more information on the main risk factors as well as additional ones and lets them know if they should see a family doctor. To help spread the word, BC Renal is partnering once again with the Kidney Foundation of Canada – BC & Yukon Branch for the “Could you be the 1 in 10?” online campaign across BC in addition to bus and skytrain advertisements in the Lower Mainland.
Patient partners, Sheryl Straza and Rozelle Callagnan, first shared their insight as members of the BC Renal and Kidney Foundation Kidney Health Month working group for the 2022 campaigns, and have returned for 2023.
Sheryl, who lives in Kamloops, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 25 years ago. After being diagnosed with kidney disease in 2015, she faced kidney failure and thankfully was able to receive a living donor transplant in September 2020 from her mom.
Rozelle, who lives in Vancouver, has had kidney disease since she was a child. To treat her kidney failure, she first had hemodialysis in 2015 and gratefully received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor in 2018.
(BC Transplant oversees the transplant process and works in partnership with BC Renal. Both organizations are programs of the Provincial Health Services Authority.)
We asked Sheryl and Rozelle to share their perspectives on three important aspects of our Kidney Health Month campaigns:
- How the BC Renal Kidney Health Check quiz can help people think about kidney disease risk factors;
Why it's important to see a family doctor if you have risk factors; and
Both women like how the quiz can bridge a knowledge gap for people. Sheryl says, "Some people may not even realize they are high risk, or that certain things are considered high risk."
They also agree that seeing a family doctor is important. Rozelle notes, "If you have the risk factors of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, that's the time to have a conversation about regular blood work check-ins."
Sheryl adds another reason for a medical check-up: "Changes may be needed to something like your diet to preserve and prolong your kidneys. Your medical team can help with this.
The top tip from BC Renal's 31-day #KidneyHealthChallenge
for both women is to keep hydrated. For the general population (not including kidney patients) Rozelle says, "Drinking about 1 to 1.5 litres of water every day helps with proper kidney function. The water flushes out toxins from the body to help keep your kidneys healthy." She also says watching sodium intake is a key tip. Sheryl rounds out her top tips with spending time in nature and/or with a pet and regular exercise and stretching.