Kidneys are vital organs involved in performing several important functions in the body. Almost a third of the adults in the United States are at risk of developing kidney diseases. People who are on long-term medications or suffering from conditions such as diabetes and hypertension have a higher risk of kidney diseases. Unfortunately, most people with kidney diseases develop noticeable symptoms very late. Thus, by the time they are diagnosed, a lot of irreversible damage would have already occurred, and they are left with two options: dialysis or a kidney transplant. Kidneys perform various functions such as:
- Regulate proper salt–water balance in the body
- Filter various wastes and toxic products from the body
- Maintain adequate electrolyte (such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus) balance in the body
- Regulate optimum blood pressure
- Maintain healthy bones by activating vitamin D
- Maintain healthy levels of red blood cells in the body
Several conditions can put a person at risk of kidney diseases. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Cigarette smoking
- Heart diseases
- Family history of kidney diseases
- Long-term use of certain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (painkillers)
Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple myeloma
- Kidney stones
- Chronic (long-term) urinary tract infections
- Old age
It is important to look after the kidneys and get regular check-ups done, particularly if you are at risk of kidney diseases.
The risk of developing kidney diseases may vary from person to person. There are certain nonmodifiable factors such as age and genetics or family history of kidney diseases that may put you at risk. You can, however, manage the modifiable factors such as a healthy diet and lifestyle to protect yourself from the risk of developing kidney diseases. Below are nine tips through which you can improve your kidney health:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids is important to keep your kidneys healthy. The optimum fluid intake depends on several factors such as physical activity, climate, and health conditions. It is advisable to drink around two liters of fluids each day if you are healthy and in a comfortable climate condition. You may consult your health provider to know about your individual fluid needs.
- Keep yourself active: Regular physical activity protects from kidney diseases and risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese may put you at risk of kidney diseases.
- Eat healthily: Consuming fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed and fatty foods can help you keep your kidneys healthy. Limit your total salt consumption to 5-6 g a day.
- Regulate your blood pressure: Keep a check on your blood pressure. Take appropriate medications and adopt a healthy lifestyle in consultation with your doctor.
- Keep your blood sugars controlled: Many people with diabetes are diagnosed late. You must check your blood sugar regularly based on the risk factor for diabetes you may have. Kidney damage due to diabetes can be prevented by keeping the blood sugars controlled.
- Quit smoking: Smoking in any form, active, passive, or vaping, is bad for your kidneys. Smoking can also increase the risk of heart diseases and kidney cancer.
- Avoid regular intake of over-the-counter pain medications: Long-term use of pain medications such as NSAIDs can damage your kidneys.
- Get your kidney functions checked if you are at risk: People with risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and a family history of kidney diseases must get themselves regularly examined to exclude the development of kidney disorders. Getting checked for urine protein or microalbuminuria (trace protein in urine) six monthly is a good way to chart your kidney function if you have diabetes or hypertension. The positive test indicates injury to the kidney, which is still reversible.