March is National Kidney Month, a time designated to raise awareness of kidney disease– which is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States. While there are several health conditions that may contribute to kidney disease, the main causes are diabetes and high blood pressure.
Healthy kidneys sift roughly two quarts of waste and extra water from the body, processing 200 quarts of blood. When kidneys are damaged, they are unable to efficiently perform this vital role. Damaged kidneys may eventually lead to renal failure, which means patients must have their blood filtered through dialysis in order to remove toxins and filter poisons from their blood.
More than 26 million Americans have kidney disease—that’s one in nine adults. Millions more are at risk of developing kidney disease, particularly those with high blood pressure.
As internists, we are keenly aware of how kidney function affects systems throughout the entire body. National Kidney Month seems like a perfect opportunity to provide information on steps you can take to help maintain healthy kidneys. To help maintain healthy kidneys:
TIPS FOR MAINTAINING HEALTHY KIDNEYS
- Don’t overuse over-the-counter painkillers.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol within a healthy range. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, speak with your physician about a treatment plan.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke, or if you do smoke, quit.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Drink plenty of water and limit the amount of sodas (both diet and regular) that you drink.
- Avoid drinks that are high in sugar.
We encourage our patients to have an annual physical where we can evaluate how well their kidneys are functioning, particularly if kidney disease runs in their family. Some patients with kidney function impairment may also benefit from limiting the amount of protein they eat or changing the source of the protein they eat. Kidney function can be determined through a simple blood test and urinalysis.
For more information on kidney health, visit the website for the National Kidney Foundation.