Healthy kidneys – Healthy you

World Kidney Day gives us a reminder of what our kidneys do for us and how we can keep them healthy.

World Kidney Day is March 14, which is a great reminder for everyone about the importance of their kidneys and how to keep their kidneys functioning properly. The kidneys are essential to the body functioning at its peak, yet the functions that the kidneys have is often minimized.

In short, the kidneys filter toxins and excess water from your blood. This seems like a simple task, but there is much more to it and how this affects your overall health. For example, one kidney is about the size of your fist, but inside there are millions of tiny blood vessels that use a complex filtration system to help filter out waste and the excess water to make urine. Did you know your kidneys also have other functions essential to your health? Michigan State University Extension says that the kidneys:

  • Filter about 200 quarts of blood in a 24 hour period, which means your blood is filtered about 400 times each day.
  • Help regulate blood pressure by releasing hormones as well as regulating the amount of salt, potassium and water in the blood.
  • Remove drugs from the blood (including over the counter and prescribed drugs).
  • Help control the chemical balance in the blood.
  • Help make red blood cells and build bones.

Uncontrolled diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. This is the result of chronic kidney disease (CKD), which means there is permanent kidney damage or decreased kidney function lasting longer than three months. About 940,000 people in Michigan have CKD and most aren’t aware that they have it because there are no obvious symptoms until the disease is quite advanced. In about 70 percent of cases, the development and/or progression of CKD can be avoided or slowed by lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and exercise, and taking medications when appropriate.

The following are eight key steps to reducing your risk of developing CKD:

  1. Get and stay active: Regular physical activity helps reduce blood pressure, which is a factor in CKD.
  2. Control your blood glucose: Uncontrolled diabetes can cause kidney damage, so test blood glucose levels regularly.
  3. Have your blood pressure checked: In addition to being a risk factor for stroke and heart disease, high blood pressure increases the risk of developing CKD.
  4. Manage weight by eating healthy: Healthy eating and weight management helps reduce the risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, which are risk factors of CKD.
  5. Drink plenty of fluids: Drinking water and other fluids aids in kidney function.
  6. Quit smoking, or don’t start: Smoking decreases blood flow, which impairs kidney function. It also increases the risk of developing kidney cancer.
  7. Be aware of over the counter medication use: Regular and consistent use of over the counter medications may cause kidney damage over time. If you are taking them for chronic pain, talk to your healthcare provider about the best option for pain management.
  8. Get your kidneys checked if you are considered high risk: This includes anyone who is obese, has diabetes or high blood pressure, has a family history of CKD, or of African, Asian or aboriginal origin.

Talk to your health care provider about getting any necessary tests to determine kidney health and function. For more information on kidney health, contact your nearest chapter of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, or for information and programs on healthy living contact your local MSU Extension office.

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