The kidneys are two small organs located just below the rib cage, toward the back. While they are only about the size of a closed fist, they perform a big job. The kidneys are responsible for maintaining fluid balance in the body and cleansing the blood of toxins.
They are also tied to the release of certain essential hormones. When the kidneys begin to fail, there are usually very few signs apparent. It is not until kidney disease becomes severe that symptoms are experienced. Learn the steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy.
Know your Risk
According to the National Kidney Foundation, 26 million US citizens are affected with CKD (chronic kidney disease). It has become an epidemic in the US, causing loss of function and life. There are several risk factors to be aware of.
- Heart Disease
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
- Family history
- Those older than 60
Some secondary risk factors are obesity, autoimmune conditions and infections present in the urinary tract and throughout the body. If you are at risk for kidney disease, you should ask your doctor about tests to monitor the kidney function.
Steps to Maintain Kidney Health
The steps to maintain kidney health will provide health benefits to your whole body. Talking to your doctor or health professional will ensure that you are making the changes that are the best for your health circumstances.
- Manage diseases and conditions. By keeping your diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease well-managed, you can decrease your risk for developing kidney disease. Controlling your blood sugar levels and taking all medications as they are prescribed are smart choices. Monitor blood pressure and report elevated readings to your doctor.
- Healthy Eating. A healthy and well-balanced diet provides adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. Decreasing fat intake will help lower cholesterol levels and assist in preventing a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys. Decrease salt use to help control blood pressure-make your goal less than 2300 mg daily.
- Control or Lose Weight. Obesity leads to high blood pressure, which causes damage to the kidneys. Work with your doctor to lose weight in a healthy manner, if needed. If you are already at your ideal weight, regular exercise and a healthy diet will help you stay there.
- Stop smoking. The use of cigarettes is linked to a worsening of kidney damage.
- Limit Alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin that the kidneys remove. Too much alcohol causes their workload to increase.
- Hydrate. Staying well-hydrated helps your kidneys function better.
- Over the Counter Medications. Do not use OTC painkillers or anti-inflammatories more than is recommended. Over-use of these types of medications has been linked to kidney damage.
- Get Educated. If you are at risk or have a family history of kidney disease, learn all you can about kidney disease.
Knowing your risk factors, controlling weight and following a healthy lifestyle are the first steps to keep your kidneys healthy. Talk to your doctor if you are at high risk for developing kidney disease.