Kidney health for everyone, everywhere is the theme of this year’s World Kidney Day, celebrated March 12 and a chance for all of us to remind ourselves of just how important these bean-shaped organs are.
What your kidneys do
Kidneys filter blood and remove waste. They also balance electrolytes, control blood pressure, produce red blood cells and help you maintain healthy bones, among other things.
One fifth of the blood pumped by your heart goes to the kidneys, where it is processed and filtered. Excess water, salt, minerals and waste are sent to the bladder as urine and ‘clean’ blood is returned to circulation. It takes just five minutes for all of your blood to be filtered by the kidney which means in 24 hours, your kidneys will filter all of your blood 288 times!
Most people are born with two kidneys, although you need just one functioning kidney to live a normal, healthy life.
How to keep your kidneys healthy
The good news is, you can do a lot to help your kidneys stay healthy.
1. Eat less salt. Foods high in salt make your kidneys work harder. Try to keep your sodium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams per day. Eat out less (restaurant meals are loaded with salt) and instead, cook from scratch at home.
2. Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure causes kidney disease. Manage your blood pressure and get it checked regularly.
3. If you have diabetes, control your blood sugars. For more than 40 percent of people with kidney failure, diabetes is the cause. Uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to heart disease, blood vessel disease, loss of limbs and blindness.
4. Stop smoking. Smoking greatly increases your risk for all kidney-related problems, including heart disease.
5. Exercise regularly. Work with your doctor to create an exercise plan that works for you. Exercising on a regular basis and maintaining a healthy weight can help keep your kidneys healthy.
Get your kidneys checked
Simple urine and blood tests can check your kidney function. Ask your doctor at your next check-up. Catching kidney disease early is key, as you might be able to slow it down with simple lifestyle changes.
If you’re at risk for kidney disease, or it runs in your family, don’t wait – make an appointment to get tested today.