#TBT: March is National Kidney Month

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As part of our “Throwback Thursday” blog series, we’re taking a look at a topic that’s currently in the news and tagging it with previous research, videos or commentaries in a relevant way. As the saying goes, “what’s old is new again” – and we hope you enjoy our wonky twist on #TBT.

Kidneys play a vital role in the way our bodies function. Since March is National Kidney Month, we’re going to commemorate the kidneys; provide information on how to keep them healthy; and highlight research conducted by the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) about a common symptom of kidney disease.

So what exactly do our kidneys do? They filter the blood in our body multiple times a day. Kidneys act as a waste disposal system by investigating the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients derived from our food intake, and send off into urine anything that is not needed. Kidneys also produce renin, an enzyme that helps regulate blood pressure; vitamin D to help strengthen our bones and teeth; and erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production. [Learn how to keep your kidneys healthy.]

Most people don’t typically think about their kidneys until they begin to malfunction. Many types of kidney disease exist, and individuals suffering from certain kinds of kidney disease are more likely to suffer from urinary incontinence (UI).

UI occurs because of problems with muscles and nerves that help to hold or release urine. The body stores urine—water and wastes removed by the kidneys—in the bladder, and that connects to the urethra, the tube through which urine leaves the body. According to the National Kidney Foundation, at least 10 million Americans suffer from UI, and UI can be managed or treated by an urologist.

Although UI occurs in all age groups, it is most common in older Americans, and also is the most common reason for people to go into nursing homes.  

In 2006, a Value in Health article supported by NPC, “Fraction of Nursing Home Admissions Attributable to Urinary Incontinence,” (and NPC’s #TBT pick) calculated the proportion of nursing home admissions of older Americans attributable to UI, and found that estimates of the fraction of nursing home admissions attributable to UI exceeded those previously assumed. It also showed an imbalance between sexes. The authors also found that the annual cost of nursing home admissions due to UI in 2000 was $6 billion annually. The article concluded that UI policies that support reimbursement for treatments of UI in the community might help prevent or delay institutionalization and offset some of the costs.

To learn more about kidney health and a list of ways to raise awareness about National Kidney Month, be sure to check out the American Kidney Fund’s website.