Used for its wide-ranging purported benefits from reducing cancer risk to maintaining healthy bones and teeth, vitamin D is readily available to the public in the form of supplements and over-the-counter formulations. Declared a global epidemic in 2010, vitamin D deficiency continues to affect billions of individuals worldwide. However, new research indicates the potential toxicity of excess amounts of vitamin D. The common perception that consuming increased amounts of the vitamin can only lead to added benefits may be wrong, as recent evidence reveals it can actually lead to increased harm on the body, specifically kidney failure.
Kidney disease, which occurs when the organs are unable to filter blood properly, causes approximately 48,000 annual deaths: the ninth leading cause of mortality in the U.S. Because kidney disease is difficult to detect until it is too severe to treat, prevention is critical. Moreover, kidney disease exacerbates heart disease—serving as a major risk factor for development of cardiovascular difficulties.
Preventing the development of kidney disease can be achieved through a variety of interventions, including knowledge of family genetics. Family history can play an integral role in risk, coupled with race and ethnicity. While factors like genetic risk cannot be changed or altered, other contributors can be addressed. Diabetes has been confirmed as the primary cause of kidney disease, accounting for 44% of new cases. Even pre-diabetes can elevate one’s risk of developing kidney disease, making it imperative to keep blood sugar under control and manage the chronic condition if already diagnosed.
In addition to high blood sugar, hypertension and cholesterol are the other two primary risk factors that contribute to the development of kidney disease. The same maladaptive factors that negatively impact the cardiovascular system also tax the kidneys. To help ensure that kidneys function properly, a heart-healthy diet, low blood pressure, and cholesterol reduction are all acutely critical.
Other medical conditions can spur the risk of kidney disease, including chronic viral infections like HIV and Hepatitis C. Routine medical exams to ensure prostate health for men and gynecologic health for women are necessary, as issues ranging from prostate enlargement to tumors in the uterus or cervix can affect kidney function. Moreover, several medications, including over-the-counter painkillers like Advil and Motrin, can also raise the risk of developing kidney disease. It is essential to always ask physicians about medical side effects, and the properties of pharmaceuticals.