How has your kidney been?
Most people know how to protect their heart, but do you know how to care for your kidneys? As we grow older, our kidneys also start to age, hence the need to protect them
The kidneys are complicated and amazing organs that do many essential tasks to keep us healthy. The main job of your kidneys is to remove toxins and excess water from your blood. Kidneys also help to control your blood pressure, to produce red blood cells and to keep your bones healthy. The kidneys are silent and efficient workers, but if they get sick, the whole body suffers.
Each roughly the size of your fist, kidneys are located deep in the abdomen, beneath the rib cage. Your kidneys control bloodstream levels of many minerals and molecules including sodium and potassium and help to control blood acidity. Every day your kidneys carefully control the salt and water in your body so that your blood pressure remains the same. Kidney disease is most commonly linked to people with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and those who are older than 60 years old. A family history of kidney disease can also put you
Obesity, autoimmune diseases, urinary tract infections and other infections also contribute to your risk of developing kidney disease. Answer these questions to see if you are at risk:
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Do you suffer from diabetes?
- Do you have a family history of kidney disease?
- Are you overweight?
- Do you smoke?
- Are you over 50 years?
If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, then perhaps you should discuss with your doctor, and may need a health screening for kidney disease! Early chronic kidney disease (CKD) has no sign or symptoms. However, you can help delay or prevent kidney failure by treating kidney disease early.
What is chronic kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive loss in kidney function over a period of months or years. Each of your kidneys has about a million tiny filters, called nephrons. If nephrons are damaged, they stop working. For a while, healthy nephrons can take on the extra work. But if the damage continues, more and more nephrons shut down. After a certain point, the nephrons that are left cannot filter your blood well enough to keep you healthy.
When kidney function falls below a certain point, it is called kidney failure. Kidney failure affects your whole body and can make you feel very ill. Untreated kidney failure can be life-threatening. Did you know that a person can lose up to 90% of their kidney function before experiencing any symptoms? Most people have no symptoms until CKD is advanced. Signs of advancing CKD include swollen ankles, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, decreased appetite, blood in the urine and foamy urine.
What you should not forget:
Early chronic kidney disease has no signs or symptoms. Chronic kidney disease usually does not go away. Kidney disease can be treated. The earlier you know you have it, the better your chances of receiving effective treatment. Blood and urine tests are used to check for kidney disease. Kidney disease can progress to kidney failure.
Golden rules to follow
Kidney diseases are silent killers, which will largely affect your quality of life. There are however several easy ways to reduce the risk of developing kidney disease. Here is what can you do for your kidneys:
- Keep fit and activeKeeping fit helps to reduce your blood pressure and therefore reduces the risk of CKD. Being too heavy raises your blood pressure, which is bad for your kidneys. Try to keep yourself at a healthy weight by keeping active and not overeating. Your body mass index (BMI) is a helpful measure of whether you’re a healthy weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises, such as walking, a week.
- Keep regular control of your blood sugar levelAbout half of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage, so it is important for people with diabetes to have regular tests to check their kidney functions. Kidney damage from diabetes can be reduced or prevented if detected early. It is important to keep control of blood sugar levels with the help of doctors or pharmacists, who are always happy to help.
- Monitor your blood pressure
Although many people may be aware that high blood pressure can lead to a stroke or heart attack, few know that it is also the most common cause of kidney damage. The normal blood pressure level is 120/80. Between this level and 129/89, you are considered pre-hypertensive and should adopt lifestyle and dietary changes. At 140/90 and above, you should discuss the risks with your doctor and monitor your blood pressure level regularly. High blood pressure is especially likely to cause kidney damage when associated with other factors like diabetes, high cholesterol and Cardio-Vascular Diseases.
- Eat healthily and keep your weight in checkReduce your salt intake. The recommended sodium intake is 5-6 grams of salt per day (around a teaspoon). In order to reduce your salt intake, try and limit the amount of processed and restaurant food and do not add salt to food. It will be easier to control your intake if you prepare the food yourself with fresh ingredients.
- Maintain a healthy fluid intake
Although clinical studies have not reached an agreement on the ideal quantity of water and other fluids we should consume daily to maintain good health, traditional wisdom has long suggested drinking 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day. Consuming plenty of fluid helps the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body which, in turn, results in a “significantly lower risk” of developing chronic kidney disease. Researchers do not advocate “aggressive fluid loading”, which can cause side effects, but they do provide evidence that moderately increased water intake, around two litres daily, may reduce the risk of decline in kidney function. It’s important to keep in mind that the right level of fluid intake for any individual depends on many factors including gender, exercise, climate, health conditions, pregnancy and breastfeeding. In addition, people who have already had a kidney stone are advised to drink 2 to 3 litres of water daily to lessen the risk of forming a new stone.
- Do not smoke
Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it impairs their ability to function properly. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50 percent.
- Do not take over-the-counter pills on a regular basis
Common drugs such non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are known to cause kidney damage and disease if taken regularly. Such medications probably do not pose significant danger if your kidneys are relatively healthy and you use them for emergencies only, but if you are dealing with chronic pain, such as arthritis or back pain, work with your doctor to find a way to control your pain without putting your kidneys at risk. So, don’t ignore your kidneys. Take care of your kidneys and they will take care of you for many years to come.