June 12, 2019 by John Fernandez
Take Steps to Protect Your Kidney Health
Your kidneys play a very important role in your body, and keeping them healthy is critical, says Natalie Sanchez, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group primary care physician.
As part of National Kidney Month, the National Kidney Foundation is urging Americans to learn more about diseases and conditions related to these vital organs.
You have two kidneys, each about the size of a fist, located on either side of your abdomen at the lowest level of your rib cage. These powerful chemical factories perform the life-sustaining job of filtering and returning to your bloodstream about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours.
When functioning properly, your kidneys:
- Remove waste products and excess fluids from your body;
- Release hormones that regulate blood pressure;
- Produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones; and
- Control the production of red blood cells
When the kidneys fail to work properly, the condition is known as chronic kidney disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 20 million U.S. adults have chronic kidney disease, and many are not aware of their condition.
People at a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease include the elderly, African- Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans, people with lupus and anyone with a family history of kidney problems.
Diabetes and Hypertension
Injury to the kidney and infection, such as a bladder infection left untreated, also can lead to kidney problems. However, the two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and hypertension, or high blood pressure. Approximately one of three adults with diabetes and one of five adults with high blood pressure have chronic kidney disease, reports the CDC.
Diabetes causes the blood to collect excessive amounts of a sugar, which, over time, damages the tiny blood vessels involved in the kidneys’ filtering action. Hypertension occurs when the pressure of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels increases. Because it is the kidneys’ job to filter blood, the increased force of blood places tremendous strain on these vital organs.
“It’s important that patients with diabetes or hypertension partner with their physician to properly manage their condition in order to help prevent kidney disease or keep it from progressing,” Dr. Sanchez said. “This includes maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, taking proper medications and getting routine screenings for the disease.”
Healthy habits, she explains, include maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet low in sodium, fat and sugar, limiting consumption of alcohol and caffeine, exercising and stopping smoking.
Often There are No Symptoms
Since chronic kidney disease often does not have symptoms until the problem has advanced, Dr. Sanchez recommends that people who have high risk factors for kidney disease be proactive and have routine lab tests, including a blood test and urinalysis to detect protein in the urine.
When symptoms do occur, the common signs of kidney disease include feeling nauseous or ill, lower back pain, frequent or painful urination, dizziness, swelling of the feet and hands or face, blood in the urine and high blood pressure. If you suspect that you have a kidney problem, it’s important to seek immediate medical treatment, Dr. Sanchez advises.
The treatment protocol for chronic kidney disease will depend on the stage of the disease. If your kidneys begin to fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Dialysis does the work of healthy kidneys by clearing wastes and extra fluid from your body and restoring the proper balance of chemicals in your blood. A kidney transplant may allow you to live a fairly normal life. More than 90,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.