3 Surprising Ways Low Kidney Function Signals Danger - LYK | June 2014

Did you know that kidney function is often a barometer of overall health? The kidneys have a wide-range of responsibilities and work in tandem with several other organ systems in the body. As a result, kidney health is often linked with the health of other systems, ranging from bone health to heart health and many other connections in between.

The kidneys are most known for creating urine and filtering wastes from the blood, but they also regulate the body’s salt, potassium and acid levels. Additionally, they produce hormones that help regulate blood pressure, stimulate red blood cell production and those that affect the function of other organs. When the kidneys aren’t working as they should be, this can have a ripple effect on the rest of the body. These 3 kidney connections may surprise you:

  1. Recent research shows that people with kidney disease are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.
    According to the latest research, men and women with stage 3 chronic kidney disease (CKD) were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with cancer during a five-year follow-up period than their peers with normally functioning kidneys.

    Many people with chronic kidney disease don't know they have it, Beth Piraino, MD, President of the National Kidney Foundation, noted. "Given how important the kidney is in eliminating potential toxins from the body, it makes sense that decreased kidney function might increase the risk of cancer," said Piraino. "This is another important reason for people to take care of their kidneys."
  2. Low testosterone levels may increase risk of death in men with kidney disease.
    Recent research shows that low testosterone levels have been linked with increased risk of death in men who have stages 3 and 4 CKD.

    More than 30 million Americans are living with kidney disease and most don’t know it. Major risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, family history of kidney failure and being age 60 or older. If you’re male and living with kidney disease or you don’t know your level of kidney function, this is one more reason to get your kidneys and testosterone levels tested. In this study, men with a high body mass index (BMI) and diabetes were more likely to have low testosterone levels.
  3. Elevated levels of uric acid could be harming your kidneys.
    Uric acid crystals deposited in the kidneys can become large stones. These stones are very painful and can cause permanent kidney damage by forming an obstruction that prevents your kidneys from removing wastes and causing infection, and scarring the kidneys with rough or sharp edges. Both problems can lead to chronic kidney disease and even kidney failure.

    "There have been a number of recent studies showing an association between elevated uric acid and several poor outcomes including more rapid progression of kidney disease," said Thomas Manley, director of scientific activities at the National Kidney Foundation.

    Elevated uric acid levels can also lead to the development of gout – a condition causing joint inflammation and pain. Diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are risk factors associated with both kidney disease and elevated uric acid levels. Lifestyle changes, such as exercise, diet modification, weight loss, smoking cessation, and moderation of alcohol intake can reduce risk factors and thereby improve kidney health. These lifestyle changes may also prevent gout. For more information about gout and kidney disease, click here.