Medical Minute: Kidney Failure

More than 20 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, and more than 378,000 Americans suffer from chronic kidney failure, requiring dialysis to stay alive. With kidney failure also comes risk to the heart. Doctors hope to reduce that risk and keep patients living longer.

Chris spent fifteen of the best years of his life in the Navy. Now, he's in a different fight. Health problems have snuck up on him like an enemy submarine.

"You can't see them, but they're there. I wound up with glaucoma, and I had a stroke in one eye. I had open-heart surgery."

Then, came his most recent battle.

"They told me that my kidneys were disintegrating."

He has chronic kidney failure. The condition increases the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. Doctors think one culprit may be a substance in the blood called homocysteine. Normal levels are 4 to 12.

"Patients may have levels of 15 or 20 or, in advanced renal failure, 50 or 60."

Or now, doctors at the VA have embarked upon a $20 million study to reduce homocysteine levels with vitamins.

"There's no medication that I know of that can lower homocysteine levels."

Now, doctors hope vitamins b-twelve and b-six, along with folic acid may. Patients take high doses to reduce their risk of heart disease.

Theodore takes the vitamins every day. He thinks it's helping, but he still prefers his own medicine.

"The best medicine you have is a smile, and if somebody don't have a smile, I always give them one of mine."

For more information, contact:

Fran Simon

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