October 13, 2018 12:21 pm

Peter Watts: Your health and protecting it

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One of the really enjoyable parts of hosting a radio program like the Alberta Morning News is that I learn something with every story.  Two stories on Saturday morning taught me a couple of things.

The first was about vigorous exercise and pregnancy.  The storyteller was Dr. Trevor Day, a physiologist from Mount Royal University.  He had been working on some high-altitude research in Nepal where he ran into a Sherpa woman who was to do some work for the researchers.  At the time this happened in 2016, she was seven-months pregnant.

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Now, working at altitude isn’t the easiest of assignments at the best of times.  Dr. Day asked if he could record some measurements with her, in part to assure himself that it was safe for her to work as a guide.  The woman agreed and the result was a series of data that had never been collected before.  She spent up to five hours a day climbing up and down a mountain and handled the challenge just fine.  Two months after the visit, the woman gave birth to a healthy baby who is now two years old.  Dr. Day re-connected with the family during another visit to Nepal in 2017.

“It’s always been understood that vigorous exercise and pregnancy weren’t necessarily a good mix,” he told me.  “I think that viewpoint is changing.  In fact, there are new guidelines coming out on this very subject in the coming week here in Canada.”

The other story where I learned something has to do with the potential damage that can be done to human kidneys when imaging tests are conducted in clinics or hospitals.  The culprit is an intravascular contrast dye which is used in the test.

Dr. Dan Muruve has led a team which has spent five years looking at this problem and believes he has found a solution.

“We were able to follow the dye’s progression through the kidney using mice as the subject animal,” he told me.  “Our findings show that in a fully hydrated kidney, the dye flushes through, but in a kidney with low hydration, the kidney absorbs the dye.  That can cause inflammation which, in turn, can lead to serious damage of the organ.”

The simple answer would seem to be that the patient should drink plenty of water prior to undergoing a test that would involve the use of these dyes.  But that’s not always possible.  Dr.  Muruve says the patient should always consult the attending physician about how best to prepare for one of these tests.

Meanwhile, the next step for Dr. Muruve’s team will be clinical trials.  The work has caught the attention of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, which calls the findings to date, promising.

“Our goal in funding research is to work towards finding a cure, and to help translate fundamental discoveries from the lab to clinics and hospitals to ease the burden of kidney disease,” says Elizabeth Fowler of the Kidney Foundation.  “We look forward to upcoming results of this promising work.”

As I said, sometimes it’s amazing what can be learned when you host a radio show.

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