What are the best ways to achieve greater kidney health? How much do you know about your kidneys?
What Are Kidneys?
The kidneys, two organs located on either side of your spine just above the waist, perform several life-sustaining roles. They cleanse your blood by removing waste and excess fluids, maintain the balance of salt and minerals in your blood, and help regulate blood pressure.
Each bean-shaped kidney is four to five inches long and contains about a million nephrons, which are like tiny pouches. Each nephron has a filter at one end, called a glomerulus, to filter your blood. Your overall kidney function can be measured by how quickly blood is filtered through these glomeruli. This measurement is called the glomerular filtration rate.
When the kidneys become damaged, waste products and fluid can build up in the body, causing swelling in your hands and feet, shortness of breath, and problems with urination. If left untreated, diseased kidneys may eventually stop functioning completely. Loss of kidney function is a serious — potentially fatal — condition.
The Role of Your Kidneys
- Maintain your body’s balance of water and concentration of minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus in your blood.
- Remove waste by-products from the blood after digestion, muscle activity, and exposure to chemicals or medications.
- Produce renin, an enzyme that helps regulate blood pressure.
- Produce erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production.
- Produce an active form of vitamin D, needed for bone health.
How to Protect Your Kidneys
There are six steps you can take to help protect the health of your kidneys:
Kidney health is mostly about prevention – learning which foods to eat and avoid, as well as talking with your doctor about the necessary diagnostic tests.
Drinking an adequate amount of water helps flush toxins and waste products from your body, reducing the risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
It is also important to maintain a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy diet consists of the following:
- Balanced Nutrition: Consume a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
- Watch Protein Intake: While protein is important, excessive consumption can strain the kidneys. Choose lean protein sources and avoid overconsumption of protein supplements.
- Limit Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates: High sugar intake can contribute to diabetes and obesity, which are risk factors for kidney disease.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney failure, get your blood and urine checked for kidney disease.
Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney disease. It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to