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Kidney Awareness Month

HighlightsKidney Awareness Month

Photo: Dr. Natashia Gongora, Internal Medicine and Nephrology Specialist

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Mar. 6, 2024

The entire month of March is observed as World Kidney Awareness Month, and on March 14, Kidney Awareness Day will be recognized with the theme “Kidney Health for All – Advancing equitable access to care and optimal medication practice”.

The purpose of our kidneys is to remove waste from the blood. Multiple research suggests that drinking water helps the kidneys to clear sodium, urea, and waste products from the body, potentially lowering the risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

“It is something that we want to get the public involved [in], to make sure to drink water. Not carbonated drinks, soft drinks, juices, and all those that have high sugars, [that] are bad for your kidneys,” said Dr. Natashia Gongora, Internal Medicine and Nephrology Specialist at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.

“The kidneys have multiple functions,” Doctor Gongora explained. “One of them is to take out urine and waste products from the body. Drinking water will help your kidneys to maintain healthy, hydrated levels in your body [and] help control blood pressure. So, if patients have comorbidities that increase their risk of suffering chronic kidney disease, water … what it does it helps it remain as healthy as possible for longer.”

Kidney disease presently ranks as the 8th leading cause of death, and left untreated, it’s projected to climb up to 5th by 2040 as over an estimated 850 million persons worldwide are affected with kidney disease, which resulted in 3.1 million deaths in 2019.

The statistics worldwide show numbers at an alarming rate. While there is no concrete number as to the population who currently suffer from severe kidney disease in Belize, a 2017 survey indicated that 12 out of 15 Belizeans suffer from some sort of kidney morbidity.

Presently, in the country, there is only one type of dialysis – hemodialysis – which is mandatory for three sessions per week; however, due to the high cost, Belizeans cannot afford it, mentioned Dr. Gongora. It is needed by a variety of people in different age groups.

“At the moment it is a pandemic, honestly; we don’t know what to do with it. We have patients today, admitted at 21 years of age in need of dialysis. We also have one admitted in the public hospital, 73 years of age. So, the extremes of ages are affected. We have very young patients in their 20s and 30s being affected as well. So, they might think they’re healthy and so on; but then, really, kidney disease is a silent disease. It doesn’t manifest until it’s too late, and the only thing we can do is take care of them and offer them hemodialysis; so, it’s something that we need to address from very young, so that’s why we need to promote prevention,” Dr. Gongora stressed.

For Kidney Awareness Day on March 14, people are urged to wear the color green in solidarity with the day and support those who are suffering from kidney failure. On the following day, the Kidney Association of Belize will be hosting its Health Fair which will be providing free medical tests at the Lions Club Parking lot.

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