DEAR ABBY: I always knew high blood pressure ran in my family, but I never realized it could cause kidney disease. Then I attended one of the National Kidney Foundation's free kidney health screenings and was shocked to learn that my lab results showed a decline in my kidney function. Because I felt healthy, I hadn't worried about my "borderline" hypertension. Turns out, my kidneys were silently being damaged.
I have since made lifestyle changes to control my blood pressure and prevent further damage. These include daily exercise and cutting back on salt, sweets and fast food.
Kidney disease and its leading causes -- high blood pressure and diabetes -- run in families, and one in three American adults are at risk. Many people don't realize that early detection can make a critical difference, protecting the kidneys and preventing damage.
March is National Kidney Month, and March 14 is World Kidney Day. The National Kidney Foundation is urging Americans to learn their risk factors for kidney disease and to get their kidneys checked with a simple urine and blood test. They will offer more advice on protecting these vital organs and staying healthy. For a schedule of free kidney health screenings across the country, not only during March but throughout the year, visit the National Kidney Foundation website at kidney.org. -- JEFF CARTER, BUFFALO, N.Y.
DEAR JEFF: I'm glad you wrote because I was taken aback to learn that more than 26 million American adults and thousands of children have chronic kidney disease.
Readers, it's important to be checked because millions of people with diabetes, hypertension and other diseases do not realize they're at risk for developing kidney disease. Could this include you or someone you love?
DEAR ABBY: I married into a shopaholic family. My husband and I live in a small home with our two young daughters. My biggest problem is my mother-in-law. She has only two interests: eating and shopping. Good manners dictate that I graciously accept all her gifts, but I am sick to my stomach over the gross excess.
I think she has an addiction. She has stolen from me the joy of buying baby clothes for my children. My Christmas tree is decked with all the ornaments from my husband's youth, and a massive dusty doll collection is coming our way.
Although my husband himself struggles with buying and collecting stuff, he agrees with me that less is better for our family. I would like to keep things simple, but it's impossible with my in-laws. -- OVERLOADED IN MINNESOTA
DEAR OVERLOADED: People make purchases beyond that which is needed for various reasons. Sometimes it's an attempt to buy love. Other times it can be to ease anxiety or depression.
If you don't draw the line and make your wishes clear, your mother-in-law will not stop what she's doing. Explain that you are grateful for her generosity, but your house is full and therefore one or two gifts per child is all you will accept. Period.
Leave some of the Christmas decorations in storage next December so there will be room on your tree for some of your own. And when the doll collection is delivered, if your girls can't use it, consider selling or donating it.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $14 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)