Health Matters | The 8 Golden Rules of Kidney Health

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The 8 Golden Rules of Kidney Health

Your kidneys are amazing little organs that play an essential part in keeping you healthy. Kidneys remove toxins and excess water from your blood, control your blood pressure, and stimulate the production of red blood cells. The levels of many elements and small molecules, including sodium and potassium, are regulated by your kidneys and play a large role in your health. For example, the work your kidneys do to maintain proper salt and water levels in your blood helps control your blood pressure.

Keeping your kidneys healthy is very important. Everyone's kidney function declines as they age but a healthy lifestyle can slow this. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is the more rapid and progressive loss in kidney function over a period of months or years. CKD often starts slowly and silently, making it difficult to identify symptoms early on. Maintaining proper kidney health is one of the best ways to prevent CKD.

To keep your kidneys healthy, follow the “8 Golden Rules” for kidney health:
  • Keep fit and active: Maintaining a fit and active lifestyle may reduce your blood pressure and maintain kidney health.
  • Keep regular control of your blood sugar level: About half of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage. Diabetes is also the most common cause of the last stage of CKD, end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The good news is kidney damage from diabetes can be reduced or prevented if detected early. Closely monitoring your blood sugar with the help of a physician or pharmacist may decrease the likelihood you experience kidney damage.
  • Monitor your blood pressure: Many are aware of the effects high blood pressure has on your risk of stroke or heart attack, but few are aware that high blood pressure is the most common cause of kidney damage. Strive to keep your blood pressure level at 120/80, the optimum blood pressure level for adults. If your blood pressure is above 140/90, discuss with a physician your risk of kidney damage. Be sure to discuss if you have other health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases, as these conditions can increase your likelihood of kidney damage.
  • Eat healthy and keep your weight in check: Eating healthy can help prevent many of the conditions that cause kidney damage, such as diabetes and heart disease. One key part of eating healthy is minimizing your salt intake. The daily recommended intake of sodium is 5-6 grams, or about a teaspoon. You can help reduce your sodium intake by avoiding processed and restaurant food. It is easier to control your nutrition intake, in general, by cooking fresh meals at home.
  • Maintain a healthy fluid intake: Consuming enough fluids helps the kidneys clear urea, sodium, and toxins from the body. While the amount of fluid intake required for an individual fluctuates depending on gender, climate, exercise, health conditions, and whether you are pregnant or nursing, traditional wisdom suggests drinking at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day.
  • Do not smoke: Smoking is linked to many negative health conditions, including increasing your risk of kidney cancer by about 50 percent. Smoking cigarettes also slows the flow of blood to the kidneys, impairing their ability to function properly. To improve your overall health, do not start smoking or stop if you already do smoke cigarettes.
  • Do not take over-the-counter pills on a regular basis: Common drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can cause kidney damage and disease if taken regularly for long periods of time. Such medications are not a significant threat if your kidneys are healthy and if you use them short-term, but if you are taking them long-term for chronic conditions, discuss this concern with your physician.
  • Get your kidney function checked if you have one or more of the “high risk” factors: Your physician can do one of four routine lab tests to check the functions of your kidneys. Discuss with your physician your risk factors and whether kidney function testing is right for you. Major risk factors include: hypertension, family history of kidney disease, obesity, diabetes, or if you are of African, Asian, or Aboriginal descent.

  • To learn more about kidney health and Chronic Kidney Disease, visit the CDC's website.

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