Time to take care of your kidneys
March is recognized as National Kidney Month making it the perfect time for raising awareness of the importance of living a healthy life to protect yourself from one of the most widespread conditions – chronic kidney disease along with other kidney associated conditions. The kidneys are essential organs necessary for removing waste from the blood along with balancing blood pressure as well as maintaining a balanced blood pH. Because the kidneys have critically important functions, it is crucial to take good care of them.
One of the most common health concerns affecting approximately 30 million Americans is chronic kidney disease (CKD). This major public health concern often goes undetected until it is very advanced which is why there are millions of Americans walking around with CKD and don’t know it – yet.
Chronic kidney disease is the gradual loss of kidney function over time due to damage. When your kidneys become damaged, they will not be able to filter blood like they should. This can lead to wastes building up in your body leading to other health problems. CKD is often progressive over time, possible leading to kidney failure with the only treatment options being dialysis or a kidney transplant.
But when CKD is found and diagnosed early through simple tests, progression of CKD can be slowed or even stopped. Knowing certain facts and steps to take to keep your kidneys healthy can significantly make a difference in preventing CKD. Follow these 5 steps to learn more about kidney disease, your risk, and how to prevent CKD:
1. Understand kidney functioning and how CKD harms it
Your kidneys - talk about a major organ often taken for granted. These two bean-shaped organs located right below the rib cage on either side of the body near the lower back, are one of the hardest working organs within your body. Here’s a look at the many functions they do daily:
· Regulate the body’s fluid levels
· Filter wastes and toxins from the blood
· Release a hormone that regulates blood pressure
· Activate vitamin D to maintain healthy bones
· Release the hormone that directs production of red blood cells
· Keep blood minerals in balance – sodium, phosphorus, potassium
When they are working fine, we may forget how important their job is. But when they malfunction, your health can be seriously affected. Here are 8 problems having CKD can cause:
· Cardiovascular disease
· Heart attack and stroke
· High blood pressure
· Weak bones
· Nerve damage (neuropathy)
· Kidney failure (end-stage renal disease)
· Anemia or low red blood cell count
2. How to assess your risk for CKD
There are 4 main risk factors for CKD – anyone who already has or has a family history of:
· High blood pressure
· Cardiovascular disease
· Kidney disease
Other additional risk factors include if a person is of African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian, or Pacific Islander heritage, anyone 60 or older, anyone who is obese, anyone born with a low birth weight (weighing less than 5.5 pounds), prolonged use of NSAIDs (a type of painkiller such as ibuprofen and naproxen), or anyone with Lupus, chronic urinary tract infections or kidney stones.
3. Know the symptoms of CKD
One reason why CKD often goes unrecognized until it is at a more advanced stage is because early CKD has few if any symptoms. This is why early testing for it is crucial. By the time symptoms appear, CKD is usually already advanced. Pay attention to these symptoms:
· Fatigue, weakness
· Difficult, painful urination
· Foamy urine
· Pink, dark urine (blood in urine)
· Increased thirst
· Increased need to urinate (especially at night)
· Puffy eyes
· Swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, feet
4. Get tested
If you are in a high-risk group as listed above in step 2, asks your primary care physician about the following tests to check for CKD:
· Blood pressure – High blood pressure can damage small blood vessels (glomeruli) in the kidneys and it is the second leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes. A good blood pressure reading is 130/80 or lower- 120/80 or less is best
· Protein in urine – Traces of a type of protein called albumin in your urine is an early sign of CKD. Persistent amounts of albumin and other proteins in the urine (proteinuria) indicate kidney damage. A good reading should be less than 30 mg of albumin per gram of urinary creatinine (a normal waste product).
· Creatinine in blood or serum creatinine – Healthy kidneys filter creatinine (a waste product from muscle activity) out of the blood. When kidney function is reduced, creatinine levels rise. A good score is between 0.6 to 1.2 mg per deciliter of blood, depending on other variables.
· Glomerular Filtration Rate – This is the most sensitive and accurate gauge of kidney function. Blood creatinine levels are measured with a calculation based on age, race, and gender. A good score is anything over 90. If between 60-90, it should be monitored and a score less than 60 for 3 months indicates CKD.
5. How to stay healthy to reduce risk of CKD
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to dodge developing CKD. Even though you may have strong risk factors you cannot change (race, family medical history, etc.), this does not mean you are doomed to suffer from this condition. It does mean you can take control of your lifestyle habits and make a difference in reducing your chance for CKD. Here is what you can do:
· Exercise regularly
· Follow a healthy, balanced diet
· Drink alcohol only in moderation if at all
· Stay well-hydrated with water
· Monitor cholesterol levels
· Get an annual physical
· Know your family medical history – especially of your parents, grandparents, and siblings
· Lower high blood pressure