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Diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity ‒ the creeping threat of lifestyle diseases

Nowadays, in times of globalisation and fast-growing populations, infectious diseases are often in the spotlight of healthcare-related news. Unfortunately, these kinds of diseases are not the only ones we have to worry about. With the progressing industrialisation of countries, civilisation has changed our habits and the average age of people has increased over the last decades. So-called ‘lifestyle diseases’ have emerged, posing another major threat to our health.

So, what is a lifestyle disease?

Unlike infectious diseases, lifestyle diseases are non-communicable. The main cause for these kinds of diseases is the way we are living our day-to-day life. Unhealthy nutrition, choosing our sofa over a walk outside, smoking, drinking alcohol – we all know about it. However, following these habits extensively for a longer period can cause severe health issues like diabetes or hypertension.

The tricky part about lifestyle diseases is that they often do not show any early symptoms, or if they do so, we won’t immediately connect them to their real cause. That’s why these diseases are also designated as ‘silent killers’. Unfortunately, these silent killers can cause irreversible damage to your body if not diagnosed at an early stage. Not only organs such as our brain or heart, but also less prominent but no less important ones, such as our kidneys, can be affected.

Diabetes

Types of diabetes

476 billion adults suffered from diabetes in 2017, reflecting 6.3 % of the global population.

Diabetes is a lifetime disease that is characterised by constantly increased sugar levels in the blood.

Diabetes type 1

A metabolic disease caused by an autoimmune reaction. In the end, the body is not able to produce the required amount of the hormone that regulates the blood sugar level.

Diabetes type 2

A chronic metabolic disease where the body cannot effectively use the hormone that regulates the blood sugar level. This is the more common type of diabetes which is mainly triggered by your lifestyle.

Hypertension

High blood pressure

874 million individuals, reflecting 11.9 % of the global population, suffered from highly increased blood pressure in 2015.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a state in which your blood vessels are consistently under raised pressure.

It is a severe medical indication which can increase the risk of diseases related to your brain, heart, kidneys or other organs, including stroke and heart attack.

Obesity

BMI > 30

1.9 billion adults, reflecting 39 % of the global population, were obese in 2014.

Obesity describes an abnormal amount of body fat. A person with a body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered as overweight, and with a BMI over 30 as obese.

Obesity is a serious threat to our health, increasing the risk of cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases, hypertension and diabetes, different kinds of cancer and kidney damage.

CKD – the silent surrender of your kidneys

The main task of our kidneys is to filter waste and water molecules from our blood to create urine which can be excreted. Besides that, they also have other important functions such as producing hormones that help to control other pivotal body functions.

CKD (chronic kidney disease) describes the gradual loss of kidney function that can result in end-stage renal failure, a medical condition in which your kidneys can’t do their job properly anymore. The term 'chronic' is used because this kidney disease is slowly progressing over a longer period. The progression itself can vary from person to person. Some people can live with CKD for many years without major issues, while others might suffer from fatal kidney failure quite early.

When it comes to the point that our kidneys are not capable of doing their job anymore, dialysis or a kidney transplant might become necessary to maintain vital body functions.

The sooner you know about a potential CKD, the more you can do to avoid the worst case.

How a tiny protein can save your kidneys

Good news! A tiny protein called ‘albumin’ can help to detect kidney damage before it’s too late.

Albumin molecules can usually be found in your blood. However, if your kidneys are not working properly, it is possible that these proteins end up in your urine. A high amount of albumin in your urine is a medical condition called ‘albuminuria’.

As mentioned before, early stages of CKD often show no or merely unspecific symptoms. The only way to find out about your actual kidney status is testing. If you are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, a heart disease or have a known case in your family, you should think about having your urine checked regularly.

A quick screening for albuminuria can be done by your general practitioner. First, a urine sample will be collected at your doctor’s office. Afterwards your urine will be analysed with a test strip. The pads on the test strip will react with particles potentially present in your urine, such as albumin, and the result will be available within a very short time.

So, should you be potentially at risk of developing chronic kidney disease, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for a regular albumin screening – it might just save your kidneys’ life.

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