World Kidney Day is celebrated every year on the second Thursday in March. Its mission is to raise awareness about how important your kidneys are to the overall health of your body. One of the primary goals of World Kidney Day is to encourage preventative tactics in adults to avoid problems with their kidneys as they age. Take the time today to learn more about your kidneys and how you can keep them healthy!
What Do The Kidneys Do?
The kidneys are a crucial organ. They are about the size of your fist and sit on either side of your spine right below the rib cage. Their primary task is to get rid of waste in the blood and excess fluid from the body through the urine. Your kidneys also maintain the chemicals in the body, produce vitamin D, and regulate salt, potassium and acid. The hormones that the kidneys produce help other organs function and regulate blood pressure and calcium metabolism.
Risk Factors for Kidney Disease
High blood pressure
Family history of kidney disease
Being over the age of 50
Having an ethnicity of African, Hispanic, Native American or Asian origin
Having one or more of these risk factors puts you at a higher danger of developing kidney disease. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle now can change your life for the better, no matter how old you are!
Ways to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy
1. Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can damage your kidneys. It damages the blood vessels in the kidneys, and they can’t function if they don’t receive blood. Damaged blood vessels don’t let the right amount of blood enter the kidneys to get cleaned. This damage could cause a buildup of waste in your blood.
2. Quit Smoking
Smoking reduces your blood flow and can prevent enough blood from reaching the kidneys. Kidneys that do not get enough blood cannot function properly. Smoking also increases your chances of developing kidney cancer.
Keeping active and fit are important for your overall health. Exercise can help to reduce blood pressure, a major factor in kidney problems.
4. Stay at a Healthy Weight
The kidneys have to work harder in the bodies of those who are overweight to make up for the extra body mass. It takes more effort to filter out waste and manage the body’s other functions when there is more body mass to regulate.
5. Eat Healthy Foods
A common problem in the kidneys is kidney stones. Kidney stones start as crystals that grow over time. This condition can sometimes be resolved with a change in the diet. Almost 90 percent of stones can be prevented by increased fluid intake and a low sodium diet.
Reducing your salt intake can significantly reduce many of the risk factors for other kidney problems. Cooking your food at home instead of going out can substantially cut out the salt from processed foods.
6. Manage Blood Sugar
Having diabetes is a significant factor in kidney disease. High blood sugar levels can cause problems with the kidneys. Diabetes causes small blood vessels in the body to die. When the blood vessels in the kidneys are affected, they can’t work properly. Since a primary function of the kidneys is to clean the blood, injured blood vessels cause more waste to build up in the blood.
High blood sugar can also cause bacteria to build up faster in your bladder. This bacteria can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) that can eventually travel up into your kidneys and cause a kidney infection. Untreated kidney infections can spread to the bloodstream, causing severe illness.
Symptoms associated with having a kidney infection include:
The National Kidney Foundation recommends that those with diabetes have their kidneys tested for kidney disease every year.
7. Drink Water
Keeping hydrated helps your kidneys function normally and assists as they remove salt and toxins from your body. It is not advised that you drink excessive amounts of water at one time, but increase your water intake slightly over the day. Drinking plenty of water can also help prevent the development of kidney stones.
8. Know Your Family History
Some kidney diseases are inherited. Diabetes and high blood pressure also tend to run in families, and will increase your likelihood of developing kidney problems. Talk with your family members about all of these conditions to determine if you have a high risk of kidney problems like kidney infections, kidney stones and kidney disease.
9. Get Your Kidneys Tested
There are two types of tests that can help you make sure your kidneys are healthy. A urine tests will determine what types of protein and albumin are in your urine. Different types can indicate kidney disease. A blood test will find out how much waste is in your blood, and will also determine if your kidneys are doing their job properly. Your doctor can administer and read these tests and discuss any problems with you.
10. Watch Your Medications
The kidneys are responsible for removing drugs from the body. Taking a lot of over-the-counter pain relievers for extended periods of time can cause damage to the kidneys. The types of drugs that can hurt the kidneys are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Those who take these medications to manage chronic pain should talk to their doctor about a pain relieving method that won’t do damage to their kidneys. Toxins, pesticides and illegal substances also cause kidney damage.
Regardless of age or stage of kidney disease, UnityPoint at Home is available to provide comprehensive medical care for you or a loved one. Our team can focus on pain and stress relief in addition to alleviating symptoms associated with kidney disease and other kidney-related problems.