Be Kind to Your Kidneys

Kidney-disease-riskSource: Health Connection, a publication of Commonwealth Health

Help prevent kidney disease

You may not think about them often, but tucked away underneath you rib cage, on each side of your spine, your kidneys labor away, filtering about 200 quarts of blood daily to rid it of waste and excess water to make urine. Your kidneys also release hormones that, among other functions, help regulate blood pressure and calcium, and trigger red blood cell production.

Damage to the kidneys can impair their filtering ability and may lead to what’s called kidney disease or chronic kidney disease, and ultimately kidney failure. The most common culprits in kidney damage are high blood pressure and diabetes. People with kidney disease are also more likely to develop heart disease.

Unfortunately, early kidney disease doesn’t have any symptoms. When it’s advanced, a person may have to urinate more or less often, feel tired, lose his or her appetite or vomit, experience swollen hands or feet, feel itchy or numb, have difficulty concentrating or feel sleepy, have darkened skin or have muscle cramps.

The lack of early warning signs is exactly why prevention is so important.

Keeping kidney disease at bay

To help prevent kidney disease, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • If you have diabetes, monitor your blood glucose level closely and work to keep it within your doctor’s recommended range.
  • If you have high blood pressure, be sure to have regular checkups and ask your doctor about home monitoring. You may need to take blood pressure medication to keep it below 130/80 mm Hg.
  • If signs of kidney damage are already present, ask your doctor about taking medication to prevent further damage. Regular testing for the presence of protein in your urine and creatinine in your blood can tell your doctor how well your kidneys are functioning.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan-a low-fat diet full of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. If you already have kidney disease, you may need to limit your protein intake.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Use care when taking painkillers such as ibuprofen, naproxen and high-dose aspirin. Long-term use can cause kidney damage.
  • Seek medical attention right away if you have symptoms of a bladder infection (for example, cloudy urine, burning when urinating, constant urge to go to the bathroom, fever). Left untreated, infections can result in kidney damage.