Fair educates public on health issues

Published 4:05 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If your kidneys aren’t healthy, you aren’t healthy.

That was one important message passed along at Thursday’s healthawareness day held at the State Room by the Southern MississippiShine Project. Nephrologist Dr. James B. Hall spoke to the groupabout kidney health and preventing kidney-related illnesses.

“Prevention is better than a cure,” he said, explaining to thegroup of attendees that one in nine American adults has chronickidney disease.

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The two most common causes for kidney disease, he said, are highblood pressure and diabetes. The myth that sodas can cause kidneydisease is a myth, he said.

“Your body needs water to function, but it won’t in essencecause kidney disease to drink Cokes,” he said. “It doesn’t causeany structural damage. It can cause bladder infections in women,and it’s a lot of sugar, which can lead to diabetes, but it won’tdamage your kidneys directly.”

There are ways to detect chronic kidney disease in diabetics,Hall told the group, including elevated blood pressure and albuminor protein in the urine.

Hall also directed the group on categories that are vulnerableto diabetes and high blood pressure, many of which overlap.Obesity, overweightness, poor diet and physical fitness are allprime factors for the two health problems, he said.

And all that can come back to the kidneys.

“If you take care of your diabetes, you can prevent kidneydisease if you take care of yourself,” Hall said.

He also told the group that many people say they “can’t loseweight,” but that it just takes the right healthy lifestyle.

“A lot of people don’t like to talk about being overweight, buttheir weight is directly correlative with kidney disease,” he said.”The biggest risk factor is overweightness and obesity.”

And there are many symptoms of kidney disease, Hall said,including decreased energy, trouble concentrating, poor appetite,trouble sleeping, swollen feet and ankles, puffy eyes, andincreased urination and muscle cramps at night.

“And we’ve probably just touched the surface of kidney disease,”Hall said. “We have patients with other symptoms like restlesslegs, and we still don’t know what the correlation is.”

It’s also a good idea to avoid alcohol and cigarettes, as wellas getting plenty of exercise, Hall said.

“That’s the best thing about the south, we have days like thisin January,” he said, referring to the 70-degree weather. “Otherplaces don’t have this.”

Also controlling blood pressure, taking medication consistently,and losing weight can help reduce the probability of diabetes, highblood pressure and kidney disease, Hall said. But also important iscommunication with the doctor.

“Ask questions. That’s how you get a good idea of what you’resupposed to do,” he said. “And write down your numbers, like yourblood pressure and blood sugar. You need to know what’s going onwith your body. Your health is the most important thing you haveexcept your soul.”

That advice was echoed by Registered Nurse Meridia Johnson, whotalked to the group about “speaking up,” and not being afraid toquestion doctors about the meaning of their diagnoses.

“The primary goal here is to prevent health care errors,” shesaid. “Sometimes we forget and use those large words. Don’t beafraid to ask us about them.”

Johnson also told the group to remember important healthprecautions like hand washing and cleaning home “hot spots” likedoorknobs and drawer handles on a regular basis.

Natural health educator Deborah Gant also discussed nutritionwith attendees, placing extra emphasis on getting plenty ofwater.

“Water is the best, least expensive natural product we can putinto our bodies,” she said.