It is vital to keep your kidneys properly healthy, especially because they play a very significant role in supporting your body’s functionality and are essential for survival. Most people have two kidneys (although the majority can live normally with a single kidney). They are about the size of your fist, and are located behind your mid back. The main function of the kidneys are to continually filter out waste products from the blood. The waste filtered from the kidney is then mixed with water and transforms into urine and collects in the bladder, exiting the kidney and body when the bladder is full. Kidneys also help balance fluids in your body, produces Vitamin D, and stimulate blood cell production. If the kidney stops functioning properly, waste products can build up in your blood and can cause severe damage to the body.
Having a family history with kidney-related issues, high blood pressure, or diabetes can put you at an increased risk of kidney disease. However, even if the risk factors listed don’t apply to you, it is incredibly important to take care of your kidneys.
Unfortunately, many Americans are not well-educated on kidney disease – knowing little to nothing about it. Kidney disease is very common in the US, affecting about 30 million adults. Unlike many other diseases, kidney disease often shows no symptoms until reaching its later, more serious stages. Because of this, we must be more aware and informed of risks and ways to prevent kidney disease.
What is Kidney Disease?
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is described as having damaged kidneys that are unable to filter the blood properly. The term “chronic” in CKD means the kidney damage progresses at a slow rate over a long period of time, causing waste products to build and accumulate in the body. That can potentially lead to other health problems such as anemia, bone disease, and malnutrition. As kidney disease worsens over time, it may eventually lead to kidney failure and require dialysis to aid filtering extra waste and fluid from the blood, or a kidney transplant from a donor.
Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease
Unfortunately, early CKD may not show any physical symptoms of abnormal or damaged kidneys. Despite early stages of damage, your kidneys are still operating as best as they can to to function normally. During these early stages of CKD, the only way to know if you have the disease is to have your kidneys examined by taking blood and urine tests at a lab or your doctor’s office. Late stage CKD may have symptoms such as chest pain, dry skin, fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, shortness of breath, vomiting, weight loss, trouble sleeping, and more.
How to Have Healthy Kidneys
There are a number of ways to help maintain healthy kidney function throughout your life.
- Drink enough water – your weight times 67% equals how much water you should be drinking in ounces per day. However, drinking over the recommended amount has not shown to improve kidney function.
- Eat healthy – Although your kidneys can handle a wide variety of dietary choices, a poor diet that can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions often result in kidney problems. Because of this, it is important to practice healthy eating habits to help regulate body weight and blood pressure. Following a healthy diet while being mindful of diabetes and high blood pressure will support strong kidneys.
- Exercise consistently – Similar to practicing healthy eating habits, it is also significant to engage in routine physical activity to help balance weight and blood pressure. However, it is crucial not to overexert your body if it is not properly conditioned to handle extensive exercise. Doing so may cause an excessive muscle tissue breakdown and put a strain on the kidneys.
- Do not over consume supplements – Excessive consumption of vitamins or herbal remedies may cause harm to your kidneys. Consult with your physician to get a better idea of the recommended vitamins and supplements.
- Stop smoking – For those this pertains to, smoking can harm blood vessels, decreasing the blood flow in the kidneys. Inadequate blood flow will interfere with kidney performance levels. Smoking tobacco products will also increase the risk of high blood pressure and kidney cancer.
- Take over-the-counter medications in moderation – Taking too much of a well-known pain medication such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen over time may cause kidney damage. Taking these medicines in moderation usually won’t pose a risk. If you require using these medications regularly, it would be best to speak to your doctor about alternative methods of pain control.
- Perform routine kidney function screenings – If the risk factors mentioned do apply to you (diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney problems) it is recommended to do regular screening tests for any kidney abnormalities as part of preventive care. You can also order a kidney test online to help distinguish different causes of anemia, detect syphilis, etc. if you have done kidney screenings previously and received abnormal results. Simply doing a routine check to make sure your kidney health is in line is also another great reason to have these tests done routinely.
Since there are typically no symptoms to help detect early stages of kidney disease, it is critical to ask your doctor or order a lab test online to obtain a blood test to check your kidneys for any problems. Blood and urine tests can help detect kidney problems early, when they are more manageable. Not only are kidney issues serious, they can lead to other severe health problems. The most important thing to keep one of your most important organs working at optimal levels is to be informed. Take care of your body and remember to get your kidneys checked regularly through testing to reduce the risks of developing kidney problems.