DaVita keeps your body in check

Kelly Dawson
April 11, 2018

There are more than 250 companies in our combined portfolios, and they are all making amazing advancements. From names you know, like Tesla, to those little gems you haven’t heard of yet, like Xylem, we want you to know all about what your holdings are up to. These ‘deep dives’ will help you understand what you’re invested into and how your dollars are making the world a better place.

DaVita is part of our Healthy Living portfolio.

  • DaVita, which is the parent company of DaVita Kidney Care and DaVita Medical Group, treats and educates those who are affected by the five stages of kidney disease
  • The kidneys are resilient, but there are some lifestyle choices we can make that can cause serious damage
  • DaVita currently has more than 2,000 dialysis centers nationwide, and offers a few home and in-center dialysis treatments to help kidneys function

For some parts of our bodies, it’s easy to do a general test to see how things are going. We can check our heartbeats for speed and breathe in deep to assess our lungs. If a tooth is throbbing or a muscle has cramped, we can pull back our lips or massage our calves as part of a short investigation. And when we have a ringing in our ears or persistent swelling around our ankles over a period of time, we know that those are causes for alarm.

While all of these personal studies are part of our daily lives, and make it easier for our doctors to understand us, there are other aspects of the body that are harder to get to know. In fact, many of us forget to check in on two vital organs in particular: our kidneys.

Unlike our hearts or lungs, the kidneys are more under-the-radar necessities that can easily slip our minds when it comes to holistic health. Think about it: Your doctor checks your heartbeat and asks you to breathe deep at every yearly visit, but have you ever taken time during your appointment to discuss the status of your kidneys? If you just shook your head, you wouldn’t be alone — most people don’t. But that’s part of the problem surrounding kidney disease: Most of us don’t know what it means to have it, and the symptoms don’t arise until it has already reached later stages. That’s why the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has called it the “silent disease.”

NIDDK has estimated that 14 percent of the U.S. population has chronic kidney disease, and almost 700,000 Americans have kidney failure. In 2013, kidney disease was reported to have killed 47,000 people in this country, which is more than prostate and breast cancer combined. Even though the prevalence of this disease has remained stable for more than a decade, it’s still a problem. And DaVita, a health company based in Denver, is trying to solve it.

DaVita, which is the parent company of DaVita Kidney Care and DaVita Medical Group, treats and educates those who are affected by the five stages of kidney disease nationwide and internationally. Since its start in 1999, DaVita’s mission — specifically around chronic kidney failure and end-stage renal disease — has made it a leader in its field with nearly 80,000 employees. DaVita Kidney Care estimates that it has served nearly 200,000 people at its outpatient dialysis centers in America (there are about 200 centers in 11 other countries), while DaVita Medical Group’s teams have treated nearly two million people.

Given the range of DaVita’s services, the solutions around kidney disease can make progressive noise where its symptoms are too often silent. Patients and family members can learn more about early detection and long-term treatments, and those with serious cases can be given a plan about what may lie ahead. Its mission to build an informed and supportive community will make it so our kidney functions aren’t overshadowed in the future.

Flesh it out

How much do you remember from high school anatomy class about what kidneys do? If you answered, “Not much,” then let’s do a short refresher.

“Your kidneys are the smartest organs in your body,” Joseph Vassalotti, MD, the chief medical officer of the National Kidney Foundation, said to Parade. “These two organs, located in the center of your body, filter waste and impurities from your blood by producing urine, help control your blood pressure, produce hormones and enzymes that ensure your bone health and produce hormones that stimulate red blood cells.”

The kidneys are resilient, but there are some lifestyle choices we can make that can cause serious damage. A 15-year study at Johns Hopkins found that its 2,300 participants had an increased risk for kidney disease if they had diets that were heavy in red or processed meats, sugary beverages, or sodium-laden foods instead of eating meals where greens, fruits, nuts, and vegetables were present. Smoking and obesity were also factors in the study, and other research has found that high blood pressure, family history, and a lack of exercise can lead to it, too.

We’ve covered what our kidneys do and what can develop kidney disease, but are there symptoms to look out for? The answer is yes, of course, but it’s tricky. They include vomiting, nausea, and muscle cramps, as well as other indicators that are easy to brush off as something else. Changes in urination is a large indicator, and that’s why it’s important for a doctor to check the protein in your urine once a year.

Now that you have a better idea of kidneys and kidney disease, let’s jump back into DaVita’s work.

When you know better, do better

DaVita reports that one in seven American adults can have kidney disease and not be aware of it, and that’s part of the reason why the above information is so crucial to its progress. Education is one of DeVita’s primary resources to encourage early detection and prevention, and it offers in-depth information online and through free in-person classes throughout the country. Its lessons feature the stages of kidney disease and how to choose a doctor, as well as what to expect from dialysis and what to know about transplants. There’s even a healthy diet section and free recipe books.

This comprehensive educational system, which also includes managing prescriptions and traveling while on dialysis, is part of that community mindset that allows this company to give its patients some peace of mind during an otherwise difficult time.

And as for actual healthcare, DaVita’s options are equally broad. It currently has more than 2,000 dialysis centers nationwide, and depending on individual cases, DaVita offers a few home and in-center dialysis treatments to help kidneys function. If patients are interested in transplants, DaVita offers tests and referrals, but doesn’t administer transplants at its centers. In 2014, about 5,000 DaVita patients received transplants, which was above the industry’s average.

DaVita introduces patients to services that can help manage the effects of kidney disease in a setting that’s welcoming, informed, and supportive. Dialysis is tough, since it requires hours of sitting as machines do the work of the kidneys, so the company’s range of services does its best to address the time commitment and pain involved with as much comfort as possible.

Come clean

Kidneys may not get the attention they deserve, but hard lessons have taught too many people that these organs are not to be ignored.

DaVita’s robust educational services, which echoes similar sentiments by the National Kidney Foundation, is the first step toward a future where the rates of chronic kidney disease will fall. And its network of treatment centers is working to give those with kidney disease a future of their own, too.

For now, kidney disease may still be seen as a silent threat. But DaVita is one of the ways that this threat will one day meet its match.

Kelly Dawson
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