March is Kidney Health Awareness Month

Posted Tuesday March 01, 2022



March is National Kidney Health Awareness month. Knowing how your kidneys function, some risk factors and warning signs for kidney disease, and how this contributes to your overall health is important. It is our hope that this article helps you start a conversation with your health care provider if needed.

Let’s start with some basic information. You have two kidneys, each about the size of your fist. They are located just below the rib cage, one on each side of your spine. Your kidneys have a very important role in your total health.

 Here are some of the helpful things that kidneys do:  

  • They regulate the body’s fluid levels
  • They filter waste and toxins from the blood
  • They release a hormone that regulates blood pressure
  • They activate vitamin D to maintain healthy bones
  • They release the hormone that directs production of red blood cells
  • They keep blood minerals (e.g. sodium, phosphorus, and potassium) in balance

There are several healthy behaviors that you can adopt in order to protect your kidneys: 

  • Exercise regularly
  • Control your weight
  • Follow a balanced diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink only in moderation
  • Stay hydrated(at least 8 large glasses of water per day!)
  • Monitor your cholesterol levels
  • Get an annual physical
  • Know your family medical history

Kidney disease is a common medical issue in the United States. In fact, 1 in 3 U.S. adults are at risk for kidney disease.

Primary risk factors for kidney disease include: 

  • Diabetes (you or your family)
  • High blood pressure (you or your family)
  • Heart disease (you or your family
  • Family history of kidney failure, diabetes, or high blood pressure
  • Obesity

Additional risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Age 60 or older
  • Low birth weight
  • Prolonged use of NSAIDs, a type of painkiller, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Lupus, other autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones

Many people with early-stage kidney disease have no symptoms. However, if you have the risk factors listed above, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider. This proactive approach helps you stay ahead of any potential issues.  Early detection of kidney disease leads to better medical outcomes. Therefore, it is important to stay in tune with your body and watch for symptoms. Many of the symptoms may be misleading and may mimic other conditions.

 Symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Difficult, painful urination
  • Foamy urine
  • Pink, dark urine (blood in urine)
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased need to urinate (especially at night)
  • Puffy eyes
  • Swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, feet

Proper kidney function helps you live a normal life and thrive. However, as kidney function declines, other medical conditions can arise.

 Complications of kidney disease include: 

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Weak bones
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Kidney failure (end-stage kidney disease, or ESRD)
  • Anemia or low red blood cell count

If you or a loved one are in a high-risk group or are experiencing symptoms listed above, ask your primary-care physician about these tests.

  • Blood Pressure (BP test): High blood pressure can damage small blood vessels (glomeruli) in the kidneys. This is the second-leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes.
  • Protein in Urine (urine test): Traces of albumin, a type of protein, in the urine (albuminuria) may be an early sign of kidney disease. Regular amounts of albumin and other proteins in the urine could indicate kidney damage.
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR blood test): This test measures how well the kidneys are filtering the blood. Doctors measure blood creatinine levels and perform a calculation to find out your glomerular filtration rate (GFR).

 

If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, there are several things you can do to protect your kidneys:

  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Manage blood sugar levels
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Avoid NSAIDs, a type of painkillersuch as Ibuprofen or Naproxen
  • Reduce protein consumption
  • Get an annual flu shot

You are not alone in this health and wellness journey. The Health Gap is here to help you. We offer several programs that can help you make better informed food choices and start exercising consistently.

Do Right! Nutrition Train the Trainer will teach you how to make better food choices, develop healthy eating patterns, and maintain a healthy weight, as well as how to teach others to do the same. Find out more information here https://closingthehealthgap.org/what-we-do/wellness-series/nutrition-train-the-trainer/

Do Right! Healthy Steps is a wellness series focused on diabetes including physical activity, nutrition, healthy eating. Find out more information here https://closingthehealthgap.org/what-we-do/wellness-series/healthy-steps/

 

Sources 

National Library of Medicine | Medline Plus:  https://medlineplus.gov/kidneydiseases.html

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease: www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease

National Kidney Foundation:  https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/sixstepshealthprimer

American Kidney Fund: www.kidneyfund.org

American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation: www.healthinaging.org/a-z-topic/kidney-problems

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