Here’s a fact you can impress your friends with – every 30 minutes your kidneys filter all the blood in your body eliminating waste and excess fluid. Pretty amazing isn’t it. Yet, how many of us really know how well are kidneys are functioning? One in three Americans are at risk for developing kidney disease and approximately 26 million Americans have kidney disease with most not knowing it.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition causing reduced kidney function over a period of time. It is diagnosed when a person’s glomerular filtration rate remains below 60 milliliters per minute for more than 3 months or when a person’s urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio is over 30 milligrams of albumin for each gram of creatinine. Most people are not aware they even have CKD until the later stages of it.
Symptoms of CKD can include:
· Feeling more tired and having less energy
· Trouble concentrating
· A poor appetite
· Trouble sleeping
· Muscle cramping at night
· Swollen feet and ankles
· Puffiness around your eyes, especially in the morning
· Dry, itchy skin
· Needing to urinate more often, especially at night
CKD at happen to anyone at any age but it is more likely to develop in certain people or situations than others. Risk factors that increasing kidney disease include:
· Family history of CKD
· High blood pressure
· If you are African American, Hispanic American, Pacific Islander or American Indian
How to protect your kidneys
We may not be able to control all risk factors involved in increasing CKD but there are steps we can take to reduce the incidence of it. The earlier in life we start incorporating these habits, the greater likelihood we can avoid CKD.
· Keep blood sugar under control
Next to age, diabetes or having out of control blood sugar levels is the second biggest risk factor for CKD. Having diabetes can also increase your risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, and further kidney damage.
One in three adults with diabetes has CKD. Nearly 44% of new cases of kidney failure meaning a person will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive are those with diabetes. Some studies have shown even prediabetes can increase the risk of kidney damage later on in life.
What to do:
If you have diabetes, maintaining tight blood glucose control is crucial to reducing the risk of CKD. Best of all is to lessen the likelihood of developing diabetes by reaching a healthy body weight, control the intake of carbohydrates, and include regular physical activity most days of the week.
· Reduce salt intake and blood pressure
One in five adults with high blood pressure also has CKD. Salt intake is closely associated with increasing blood pressure. Studies in humans have shown that salt intake increases the amount of urinary protein which is a major risk factor for developing CKD. Our body removes unwanted fluid by filtering your blood through the kidneys, via osmosis, to draw excess water out of your blood. To do this, it requires a balance of sodium and potassium to pull the water across the wall from the bloodstream into a collecting channel in the kidney.
Consuming a high salt diet alters this sodium balance causing the kidneys to remove less water resulting in higher blood pressure. This puts a strain on the kidneys and can lead to CKD.
What to do:
Monitor your salt intake carefully. Sodium intake should be no more than 2300 milligrams a day. Read the Nutrition Facts panel on food packages and choose lower sodium foods with no more than 200 milligrams per serving. Stay away from highly processed foods that often are very high in sodium – pizza, frozen meals, canned or boxed meals, soy sauce, luncheon and deli meats, hot dogs, salami and other foods high in sodium.
· Stop smoking
Smoking doesn’t do anyone any good as it allows toxins into the body. It is particularly bad for the kidneys as it slows blood flow to them. Studies have shown that smoking is harmful for the kidneys and can cause kidney disease to progress and increases the risk for proteinuria which is an excessive amount of protein in the urine.
What to do:
Never start the habit of smoking to begin with. For many people, once they start and it becomes addictive, it can be very difficult to stop. If you currently are smoking, begin now to plan on quitting as soon as possible.
· Exercise daily and lose excess weight
Studies have shown exercise is beneficial for kidney function. It can improve glomerular hyperfiltration and improve proteinuria. But the best benefit of keeping fit is in helping to reduce weight and keep it off. Excess weight is strongly associated with albumin in the urine. In addition, weight reduction may prevent the progression of CKD by reducing proteinuria and may prevent further decline in kidney function in obese individuals with kidney disease.
What to do:
Begin and maintain a regimen of regular exercise. It could include a variety of exercise such as walking, swimming, jogging, anything that gets you up and moving helping you reach a healthy body weight. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise weekly.
· Eat a DASH-like diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Researchers who tracked 3,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study for 11 years found that those who ate a DASH-like diet were 45% more likely to have a rapid drop in the glomerular filtration rate.
What to do:
Include more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. Choose LESS of salt, sugar-sweetened drinks, and red and processed meats.