What are the best ways to achieve greater kidney health? How much do you know about your kidneys?
What Are Kidneys?
The kidneys, two organs located on either side of your spine just above the waist, perform several life-sustaining roles. They cleanse your blood by removing waste and excess fluids, maintain the balance of salt and minerals in your blood, and help regulate blood pressure.
Each bean-shaped kidney is four to five inches long and contains about a million nephrons, which are like tiny pouches. Each nephron has a filter at one end, called a glomerulus, to filter your blood. Your overall kidney function can be measured by how quickly blood is filtered through these glomeruli. This measurement is called the glomerular filtration rate.
When the kidneys become damaged, waste products and fluid can build up in the body, causing swelling in your hands and feet, shortness of breath, and problems with urination. If left untreated, diseased kidneys may eventually stop functioning completely. Loss of kidney function is a serious — potentially fatal — condition.
The Role of Your Kidneys
Maintain your body’s balance of water and concentration of minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus in your blood.
Remove waste by-products from the blood after digestion, muscle activity, and exposure to chemicals or medications.
Produce renin, an enzyme that helps regulate blood pressure.
Produce erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production.
Produce an active form of vitamin D, needed for bone health.
How to Protect Your Kidneys
There are six steps you can take to help protect the health of your kidneys:
Kidney health is mostly about prevention – learning which foods to eat and avoid, as well as talking with your doctor about the necessary diagnostic tests.
Drinking an adequate amount of water helps flush toxins and waste products from your body, reducing the risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
It is also important to maintain a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy diet consists of the following:
Balanced Nutrition: Consume a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Watch Protein Intake: While protein is important, excessive consumption can strain the kidneys. Choose lean protein sources and avoid overconsumption of protein supplements.
Limit Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates: High sugar intake can contribute to diabetes and obesity, which are risk factors for kidney disease.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney failure, get your blood and urine checked for kidney disease.
Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney disease. It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to manage your blood sugar levels and prevent kidney complications.
High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys. Regularly monitor your blood pressure and take steps to keep it within a healthy range through lifestyle changes or medication if prescribed by a doctor.
High sodium intake can raise blood pressure and strain the kidneys. Limit processed foods and use herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt.
For those recently diagnosed with kidney disease, find out about the basics of kidney disease and what it means for you. Individual needs may vary, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet, exercise routine, or medication. If you have existing kidney issues or concerns, your doctor can provide personalized guidance.
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Talk to loved ones with diabetes and high blood pressure about getting tested for kidney disease.