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Help Your Kidneys, Save Your Heart

March 04, 2011

In the scheme of things, chronic kidney disease (CKD) typically gets less attention than the leading causes of death like heart disease and stroke. But, as it turns out, kidney health has a lot to do with heart health and vice versa.

On Tuesday, March 8, from 1 to 3 p.m., a panel of physicians and other health care professionals will present a World Kidney Day seminar at Washington Hospital, focusing CKD’s link to heart disease and nutrition.

The kidney-heart link

The specific focus of this year’s World Kidney Day is Protect Your Kidneys and Save Your Heart.

"The theme of protecting your kidneys to save your heart is popular, because everyone is interested in preventing a heart attack and stroke," explains the presentation’s moderator, Lucia Yumena, M.D., a Washington Hospital medical staff nephrologist.

To bring light to this aspect of chronic kidney disease, Jeffrey Carlson, M.D., a Washington Hospital medical staff cardiologist, will talk about its relationship to heart disease and how the two conditions impact each other.

"The fact is that a lot of people that have fairly mild heart disease also have kidney disease and this multiplies the risk of future stroke and heart attack," Dr. Carlson points out. "In people that seem to have mild kidney disease, it becomes a big risk factor in developing heart attack and stroke, so I’m going to be looking at all the risk factors that go into heart disease and kidney disease."

Unfortunately, many patients remain unaware of the strong correlation between heart health and kidney disease, which can leave them vulnerable, according to Dr. Carlson.

"I want people to really understand the strong relationship between kidney problems and heart problems," he says. "Kidney patients don’t realize the most common problem they have is cardiac disease and cardiac patients don’t realize kidney problems multiple their risk of a cardiac event such as a heart attack."

Overall, Dr. Carlson says his approach to heart disease is pretty straightforward.

"I plan to give people a clear idea of what heart disease is and what it means to them and all the things that can cause it and make it worse, as well as what you can do to prevent and reverse those things."

Looking at nutrition through a different lens

Both heart disease and kidney disease heavily impact how patients must think about nutrition—and it’s not always easy to understand.

During her segment of the discussion, Cecillia Sun, M.S., a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital, will examine how to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease in the chronic kidney disease population by modifying dietary intake.

"I will review the risk factors for cardiac disease and the additional risk factors for the chronic kidney disease population," Sun explains. "My target audience is the chronic kidney population and those wanting to reduce their cardiac disease risk.

"Of course, I will go over and review food choices that will fit into a heart-healthy, kidney-friendly diet, and that will be the highlight of my presentation."

Sun is quick to point out that, as CKD progresses, nutritional needs and pitfalls become more complex and sometimes confusing to patients, especially those who were told in the past to focus on a "heart healthy" diet.

"As kidney disease progresses, a lot of the cardiovascular disease population is not aware of some foods that are high in minerals that could be toxic to people in stages three, four and especially five of chronic kidney disease," she says.

Sun will help audience members learn how to navigate the tricky waters of managing both chronic kidney disease and cardiac risk factors, including which foods may be heart healthy but potentially dangerous to people in later stages of CKD.

Learn more

To learn more about chronic kidney disease and its link to heart disease, attend the upcoming seminar at Washington Hospital on Tuesday, March 8. In addition to presentations by Dr. Carlson and Sun, the seminar will also include a talk by Qi Che, M.D., a Washington Hospital medical staff nephrologist who will focus on how patients can better protect kidney health.

The seminar will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, across the street from the main hospital building.

A special health fair focusing on kidney disease will immediately follow the seminar from 3 to 4 p.m. and health experts from Washington Hospital, including kidney and dialysis nurses, pharmacists, dietitians and physical therapists, will be available to give out information and answer questions.

You register for the upcoming seminar and health fair at www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.

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