How the Kidneys Function

The kidneys – two fist-sized, bean-shaped organs that are located just below the ribcage – are responsible for removing any excess fluid or waste from the body, in addition to keeping electrolyte levels stable and creating hormones that make red blood cells, regulate blood pressure, and even help make your bones strong.

First, we’ll take a look at how the kidneys function…

Each kidney is made up of filtering units known as nephrons that filter small amounts of blood. The nephrons include their own filter known as the glomerulus which allows waste to pass through it, with the final product turning into urine. Urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder through two thin tubes located on each side of the bladder known as ureters. The kidneys filter approximately 150 quarts of blood each day, producing 1 to 2 quarts of urine. When our kidneys don’t work properly, the production of urine can slow down and even stop completely, resulting in kidney failure and the need for kidney dialysis to help with the removal of leftover fluid from the body.

Kidney failure can occur from a number of acute or chronic situations. For example, if you have suffered direct damage to your kidneys, have been diagnosed with a condition that can significantly slow down blood flow to the kidneys, or blocked ureters where waste is unable to leave your body. Conditions that can slow blood flow and lead to kidney failure include blood loss, heart attack or heart disease, infections, liver failure and dehydration. Certain diseases, damage and other agents such as blood clots, lupus, and multiple myeloma can also lead to acute kidney failure, as well as toxins such as alcohol and drug use. You are at a greater risk of developing kidney failure if you are at an advanced age, have been diagnosed with heart failure, liver disease or peripheral artery disease. With acute kidney failure, the function of the kidneys is lost rapidly. However, for acute kidney failure to occur, both kidneys must be damaged. If only one kidney is damaged, it can be removed and you will still be able to have normal function with the remaining kidney. If both kidneys are damaged then a kidney transplant may be required.

It is important to note that acute kidney failure usually co-occurs with other medical conditions, both of which can rapidly worsen if not appropriately treated, hence why it is important to see your physician for annual checkups.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, who practices in the city of Vancouver, is available to see patients on a walk-in basis and is happy to answer any questions you may have about the kidneys and how they function. Dr. Ghahary currently practices at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia. For his complete schedule, visit the clinic website at http://brentwoodwalk-inclinic.com. Click here for directions to the clinic.

Understanding Inflammation

When Canadians think of inflammation, we often think of it as damage to the body that causes pain and swelling, and even infection. While this is true to a certain extent, inflammation is actually the body’s natural response to something it perceives to be harmful. So while infection is oftentimes easily associated with inflammation, inflammation does not necessarily mean an infection is present. Inflammation occurs by releasing chemicals from the white blood cells, which assists in protecting the body from and removing any damaged pathogens, cells or other irritants. A bacterium, fungus or virus causes infection, and inflammation is simply the body’s response to it. When inflammation is present, this means that the body is trying to heal itself. If inflammation did not occur, our bodies would never properly heal.

There are two types of inflammation that can occur. Acute and Chronic. Acute means the rapid onset of inflammation, which can become severe but has a short healing period. Acute inflammation can be the result of having a sore or scratch throat caused by the common cold or flu, bronchitis, skin wounds, dermatitis, appendicitis or sinusitis. Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is long-term and can last from months to years. Chronic inflammation can be caused by the failure to eliminate acute inflammation as well as other persisting irritants. It can result in several diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hay fever, and even certain cancers. Chronic sinusitis, asthma, and digestive orders such as Crohn’s disease are also linked to chronic inflammation. Signs and symptoms of inflammation can include pain to the affected areas (especially upon touch), redness, swelling, and the feeling of warmth.

Autoimmune diseases can also result in inflammation. An autoimmune disease is when the body’s immune system issues a response to otherwise healthy tissues and mistakes them for pathogens or irritants that are harmful. Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia.

In certain cases, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, Canada, will prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms associated with inflammation. These medications include anti-inflammatories known as NSAIDs – such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, and are used to treat inflammation and pain. For more information on chronic pain management, visit alighahary.blogspot.ca. Corticosteroids such as Prednisone are also commonly used to treat inflammation. As these drugs can result in serious side effects and other health conditions, it is not recommended that they are taken long-term unless otherwise noted by your physician.

February is Heart Month in Canada

Heartbeat - Dr. Ali Ghahary
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Heart Month, created by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, is a campaign to raise awareness on heart disease and promote positive lifestyle changes to lessen the risk of patients developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke.

At least 9 in 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for developing heart disease, and an estimated 600,000 Canadians are currently living with heart failure. While there is no cure for heart failure, there are many steps a person can take to manage the condition, and other changes one can make to avoid the development of heart failure later in life, as 8 in 10 cases of heart disease and stroke are preventable by making simple lifestyle and behaviour changes.

If you are a smoker, consume alcohol, are physically inactive, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. As many as 14 million Canadians are obese or overweight, and more than 2 million Canadians have been diagnosed with diabetes, with prevalence on the rise.

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Eating well is a key factor in keeping your heart healthy. Instead of eating over-processed food such as pizza, hot dogs, and deli meats, choose foods that are natural. Fruits and vegetables, for example, carry lots of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, and you should eat 7 to 10 servings each day.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a physician in Vancouver, is a strong advocate for healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, and you can find diet-specific information by visiting https://alighahary.wordpress.com. In addition to eating more fruits and vegetables, you should also try to consume whole grain foods rather than refined grains such as pasta or white bread. Whole grain foods such as brown rice, quinoa and hulled barley contain fibre, vitamin B, and protein. Other foods containing proteins include beans, lentils, fish, tofu, lean meat, and certain dairy products that are lower in fat. Making a meal plan by writing down a list of foods and recipe ideas may be helpful, and you should always read the nutrients facts found on packaging to know how much salt, sugar or trans fat you may be consuming. If you like to snack, instead of eating potato chips try alternatives such as celery, cucumbers, carrots, or grape tomatoes – these go great with low-fat dips, salsa, hummus or peanut butter.

Physical activity is also important in maintaining heart health. By exercising 150 minutes per week, you are not only preventing heart disease and stroke, but you will also be lowering your cholesterol as well as avoiding diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. You will also notice benefits quickly; blood pressure will improve, and you will feel much more energetic as a result of staying physically fit.

For more information on exercise and its many health benefits, along with other great health tips, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s blog at http://alighahary.blogspot.ca. You can also follow Dr. Ghahary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DrAliGhahary.

Information on Hepatitis B (HBV)

Hepatitis B Virus, also known as HBV, is a potentially life-threatening liver disease that can be either acute or chronic. More infectious than HIV, Hepatitis B is contracted through contact with bodily fluids or blood of a person already infected with the disease. While less than 2% of the Canadian population is infected with HBV, it affects an estimated 1.2 million individuals in the United States and over 300 million individuals worldwide, resulting in the deaths of over 600,000 patients each year due to complications from the disease including cirrhosis – a condition that results in scarring of the liver usually as a result of exorbitant alcohol consumption, viral Hepatitis B and C, and other causes, in addition to liver cancer.

To see the difference between a normal liver and one that has been affected by Hepatitis B, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Instagram page at: http://instagram.com/alighahary.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B Virus include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dark urine, pale stools, joint pain, stomach pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin.) However, more than half of those with Hepatitis B usually do not develop symptoms until their liver has been affected.

As mentioned, HBV is spread through contact with blood and bodily fluids. It can also be contracted through using unsterile tattooing or body piercing equipment, sharing personal hygiene items with another infected individual such as razors, toothbrushes, scissors and nail clippers, by sharing contaminated drug-use items (i.e. needles), as well as unprotected sex and having multiple sexual partners. It is important to note that HBV is not spread by having casual contact with someone…such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or being around individuals who may be coughing or sneezing.

Taking preventive measures to avoid contracting HBV is important. In Canada, all Provinces offer free immunizations to children and certain groups of adults who may be at risk of developing HBV. The vaccine is routinely given to children in Grade 6 who have not yet been vaccinated. It is also typically recommended to children under the age of 12 whose families have emigrated from countries that have a high HBV risk rate and to individuals who have had multiple sexual partners or a recent sexually transmitted infection (commonly referred to as an STI), individuals with chronic liver disease, and health care practitioners who are at risk of coming into contact with blood or bodily fluids as a result of their job.

PrintIn acute cases, Hepatitis B will clear on its on – usually within 6 months of first contracting the disease. This means that you will no longer be infected with HBV and also will not put others at risk of developing it. However, in chronic cases, long-term treatment is required. In order to manage symptoms associated with HBV, Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary focus on relieving the patient’s symptoms, preventing any complications that may arise, as well as preventing transmission of the disease. To start, Dr. Ghahary will monitor patients with blood tests to keep a close eye on the health of the liver. Medications such as Epvir, Hepsera, Tyzeka and Baraclude will also be prescribed. These are antiviral medications that help to slow down the progression of the virus. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.

To cope with the diagnosis of HPB, it is important to educate yourself on the disease. Speaking to your physician is always a great place to start, and there are various libraries around Vancouver and the surrounding area that will likely have books available on the disease. The Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre also offers support and educational tools on HBV and other acute and chronic diseases, including HIV and HCV. If diagnosed with HBV, you should ensure that you are taking care of your liver by avoiding alcohol consumption, and ensure that you have a healthy diet, are getting regular exercise and enough sleep.