kidney disease


How Your Kidneys Could Signal Trouble Ahead For Your Brain

New research finds links between the humble kidney and our brains. Shown here is the kidney of an embryonic mouse, genetically altered to glow green.

The last time Dr. Julie Lin went for her annual check-up, she asked for tests of her kidney function that her primary care doctor would not otherwise have ordered.

It was not just that Dr. Lin is a Brigham and Women’s Hospital nephrologist — a kidney specialist — and often sees patients who, by the time their disease has been detected and they have been referred to her, are verging on total kidney failure.

It was that she had found in her own research — which is just out in a leading nephrology journal — that tests of your kidney function can apparently yield surprisingly telltale insights into the health of your brain, and possibly other organs as well.

The research looked at more than 1700 women over age 70 in the long-running Nurses’ Health Study, following them for up to six years. It found that in women whose urine tests indicated the very beginnings of kidney dysfunction, their cognitive abilities — higher-order brain functions like memory and verbal fluency — declined two to seven times faster than normal.

More than half a million Americans are in ‘end-stage’ kidney disease, and among them, 88,000 die each year.

The cognitive experts working on the study were “really struck by how strong an association there was, how much faster a decline this very small amount of protein in the urine is signaling,” Dr. Lin said.

The study mainly raises the possibility of an easy, non-invasive urine screening test that could provide a useful window into brain health. But it also has potential implications for a medical-emotional conundrum: Over 20 million Americans are afflicted by chronic kidney disease; more than half a million are in its ominous “end stage,” and among them, 88,000 die each year. So why, oh why, don’t you care more about your kidneys?

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Why To Exercise Today, Whether Or Not You Have Kidney Disease

First of all, I hate to say it but you can’t necessarily assume you don’t have kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is widely considered a silent epidemic that affects a total of 26 million Americans; many people have no symptoms and don’t get tested until it’s late in the game. (More on kidney disease here.)

Now my point about exercise: A new review finds that even if you have chronic kidney disease, exercise can help. Even if you’re on dialysis, exercise can help. So how can my own measly health problems keep me from exercising? From the press release here:

There are many reasons why people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) often lose fitness and have increasing difficulty performing normal daily tasks, but new research shows scientific evidence for the benefits of regular exercise for people with CKD, including those with a kidney transplant. They can improve their physical fitness, walk further, have healthier blood pressures, healthier heart rates, higher health-related quality of life scores and better nutritional characteristics compared to those who don’t exercise. So concludes a systematic review published in The Cochrane Library. Continue reading