Dealing with Kidney Disease: Mind, Body and Spirit

August 20, 2018| Health and Wellbeing /

The diagnosis of kidney disease can be a tough pill to swallow, but it's important to remember that there are still ways to look after your mind, body and spirit.

First of all, you're not alone! In Australia today, one-in-ten people have evidence of chronic kidney disease, and many of them are unaware of it. While kidney disease can't be cured, it can be managed with a proactive approach to health and lifestyle, along with an experienced medical team on your side.

For many people, kidney disease may begin with a routine trip to the doctor. Donna Smith, a registered nurse from Epworth HealthCare, says that kidney disease can sometimes just feel like having the flu.

You’ve probably had this long-term period where you’ve felt tired and lost your appetite, and that might be all you’ve got. Most people that go to their GPs will have a blood test and their blood pressure follow up, and that’s when it gets picked up.
— Donna Smith, Registered Nurse, Epworth HealthCare

As kidney disease compromises nutritional intake and health, it’s essential that people with the disease are proactive about their diet and fitness. Consulting a Dietician that specialises in the condition (Renal Dietician) is a crucial step for those with the disease so that they can develop a personalised meal plan.

The Renal Dietician will likely complete a dietary assessment to make sure that you're getting all the nutrients you need. That might include things like protein, salt, sugar, potassium, phosphate, fluid and fat. If your diet needs to be adjusted, they'll work with you on your food likes and dislikes to tailor a dietary plan just for you that takes your age, lifestyle, weight, etc. into consideration.

Exercise is also important for those with kidney disease as it can help to reduce stress, manage weight, keep muscles strong and increase your energy. 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise can be enough to improve heart health and blood pressure.

Given that it can feel similar to the flu, the diagnosis of kidney disease might come as a surprise for many people, which isn't easy. That diagnosis, along with the lifestyle adjustment means that it's important that you look after yourself mentally and ask for help if you need it. If you're a friend or family member, I'm sure your support would be appreciated as well!

As kidney disease progresses, the changes made to a person's lifestyle can become more significant. Further dietary changes and even dialysis may be required as the kidneys can become much less effective at removing unwanted fluid and managing the correct levels of nutrients such as calcium, phosphate and potassium.

During this time Donna says that the primary goal for hospital staff is to keep the patient’s life as usual as treatment will allow.

We’re aiming to restore the patient back into the community and into their previous lives as much as possible
— Donna Smith, Registered Nurse, Epworth HealthCare

Kidney disease doesn't usually give you a lot of symptoms, so it can be tricky to know that something is wrong. Some things to look out for might be changes in urinating habits, blood in your urine, pains in your back and more.

If you're worried, see a healthcare professional. Epworth provides renal dialysis treatment across Victoria, find out more here.



Isabel Stewart

Contributor

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