Kidneys are bean-shaped organs which are the size of your fist. They are located on either side of your spine in the middle of your back. Their main function is to filter blood and each of the kidneys has millions of tiny filters which retain nutrients and much of the water. The harmful wastes and extra water and nutrients are cleared away through urine. The kidneys also produce hormones that control blood pressure, produce red blood cells and activate vitamin D to keep the bones strong.
A little of the kidney function is lost as we age. But when kidney function declines due to an underlying disease, toxins and extra water build up in the blood. There are different types of kidney disease, when the kidney function suddenly falls due to injury or poisoning, it is called acute kidney injury. However, it is more common for kidneys to lose their function slowly over years and this is called chronic kidney disease. A patient with chronic kidney disease will be advised by the doctor to go for kidney dialysis treatment to replace the lost function of the kidney. Sometimes, kidney transplant may be suggested, depending on the age, fitness and financial status of the patient.
Kidney diseases are silent killers which affect all areas of a person’s life if they are serious. However, there are several ways to help reduce the risk of acquiring kidney disease.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are leading causes of kidney disease. Heart diseases and a family history of kidney disease put a person at a potential risk of developing kidney disease. If a person has any of these risk factors, it is best to get screened for kidney function. Chronic kidney disease cannot be cured but if detected early, its progress can be slowed. The patient may have to undergo a series of kidney dialysis sessions in order to keep toxins and extra volume of water from building up in the blood.
So How to Keep Kidneys Healthy
The best ways to keep kidneys healthy are to keep your blood pressure under control. The blood pressure should usually be under 140/90 mm Hg. Blood pressure above this level puts you at a greater risk of heart disease and kidney dysfunction. Blood pressure can be kept in check by having a low-salt diet, reducing mental stress and trying to maintain a healthy weight.
A healthy, low-salt diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables is needed for good kidney health as it helps in keeping blood pressure at normal levels. Fresh fruits and vegetables are low in sodium, high in vitamins and minerals and are a good source of antioxidants, factors that are good for cardiovascular and renal health. Fluid intake is also important. Usually, drinking about 3 litres of water is thought to be beneficial for kidney health. While planning your diet, it is important to lessen the protein intake because proteins increase the effort needed by the kidneys to filter proteins and amino acids from the bloodstream. The protein intake for an average-sized adult should be limited to 46-56g per day. Fluid intake should however be increased if a person is exercising or is in a place of hot climate in order to replace the body fluids that are lost through perspiration.
Getting enough exercise is an important factor for kidney health. It not only helps keep blood pressure and diabetes under control but also looks after cardiovascular health and keeps cholesterol levels under check. Just 30 minute of mild to moderate exercise is enough to keep you in good health. You can start your exercise regime by a simple walk around the neighbourhood and slowly progress to walking greater distances. Treadmill and stationary cycling can also be good choices for exercise.
Too much alcohol affects the kidneys’ ability to filter blood and maintain fluid-electrolyte balance in the body. The best advice is to quit alcohol completely or limit its consumption to one beverage a day. Smoking is equally dangerous to the kidney as the toxins from cigarette smoke become dissolved in blood and damage the blood vessels and the tiny filters in the kidney, thus compromising its function.
Patients with chronic pain conditions such as arthritis or back pain should restrain from using NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxene and aspirin as all these drugs have an adverse impact on kidney function. If you have been on these drugs for a long time, then its time you got kidney screening done to check if your kidneys are functioning normally. Also, it is best to find out from your doctor if there are other means to get rid of your pain.