Nephrosclerosis or Treatable Kidney Damage
Many people have difficulty understanding circulation problems. Consider arteriosclerosis (art tear e oh scler oh sis). If you are reading this article, you may have it but not understand it. Arteriosclerosis starts in childhood and symptoms can develop in childhood, teenage or adult years. You could have no symptoms at all until you have a heart attack, stroke or kidney damage. Almost 100% of patients with hypertension, abnormal cholesterol, abnormal insulin or glucose, cardiovascular disease or circulation problems have nephrosclerosis with abnormal kidney function tests.
Kidney damage is common, found with blood tests and accelerates circulation damage, increasing the risks for heart disease or stroke. How does this happen? One common reason is nephro (kidney) sclerosis = hardening of the capillaries and arteries in the kidneys. Repeat after me: neff row scler oh sis. Treatable nephrosclerosis starts in childhood or as a young adult and commonly has no initial symptoms.
Like the heart, the kidneys can be damaged by poor food choices, lack of exercise, excess weight, poor lifestyle choices, abnormal insulin or glucose, abnormal blood pressure, environmental toxins and other treatable problems. The kidneys are located in your mid back on the left and right sides. Most people know the kidneys filter something. The kidneys filter and excrete BUN, creatinine, uric acid, protein and other substances. High levels are clues the kidneys are not functioning well and need evaluation or support. The kidney GFR test is even more accurate in diagnosing and managing chronic kidney disease. GFR means glomerular (see below) filtration rate.
The kidneys also regulate circulation and heart functions by controlling water levels and balance electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, chloride or sodium. Diuretics are used to force the kidneys to lower blood pressure but may damage the kidneys and cause electrolyte depletion. The kidneys maintain blood pressure by controlling water, electrolytes and hormones such renin or angiotension. ACE or ARB drugs block these hormones forcing blood pressure down but potentially increase renin, creatinine, BUN or potassium, which damages the kidneys. The kidneys produce kinins and prostaglandins, which are potent chemicals that cause silent degenerative inflammation, anywhere from your head to your toes, including your capillaries, arteries, heart and kidneys. Anti-inflammatory medicines such as Motrin, ibuprofen, Aleve and prescription NSAID drugs block prostaglandins to relieve symptoms but may damage the kidneys. The kidneys produce a number of hormones, such as erythropoietin, which stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Anemia may be a clue that treatable kidney problems exist. The kidneys regulate amino acids and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and others. Anxiety, depression and other neurotransmitter conditions may be a clue of treatable kidney dysfunction. The kidneys correct low glucose during prolonged fasting and can be damaged if insulin or glucose is too high or low. The kidneys regulate acid/base pH balance and mineral balance via vitamin D levels. These are just a few examples of what the kidneys do.
Kidney function is so critical that 20% of blood pumped from the heart flows to the kidneys. Any circulation problem may damage the kidneys, but once the kidneys are damaged they create circulation problems. Each kidney has about 1 million nephrons or functioning units. Each nephron consists of the glomerulus where fluid and other substances are filtered or secreted back into circulation or out into the urine for elimination. Nephrons are damaged by treatable kidney injuries (excess fat cells, abnormal insulin and glucose, abnormal blood pressure, IV contrast dyes, infections, circulation disorders, etc.), diseases, drugs, environmental toxins (chemicals, lead, mercury, etc.) and aging. Your kidneys can’t make new nephrons but they can function better (as monitored by improving lab tests). Once the nephrons are damaged, they accelerate circulation problems and increase risks significantly for stroke and heart disease.
Oftentimes, the conventional approach of using hypertension, diabetic or cardiovascular drugs does not protect the kidneys because kidney function tests remain abnormal, if anyone bothers to check them. Worse yet, new data reveals many standard blood pressure drugs can actually damage kidney functions. In fact, new drugs are available to suppress kidney hormone damage done, in part, by other cardiovascular drugs.
After age 40, the nephrons decrease by about 10% per year due to nephrosclerosis. 70% of the nephrons can be lost before clinical symptoms appear. In other words, you can have silent chronic kidney damage or disease with no symptoms at all. If your kidney tests are abnormal, we recommend working on the causes, testing kidney function until normal and then annually or if in any health crisis or problem. We have pulled a number of patients out of a health crisis by improving kidney functions.
David Overton, PA-C works at Natural Medicines & Family Practice providing integrated conventional and alternative approaches under the supervision of Dr. Richard Faiola, MD, ABFM. 360-357-8054