We spend time worrying about the health of our heart, brain, lungs, and liver—but what about our kidneys? Even though they may not get the same attention as our other vital organs, it is vital that we take care of them. That is why Family HealthCare Associates is celebrating “National Kidney Month” by educating our patients on what they do for our bodies, as well as how we can keep them in optimum health.  

You may ask, what is so important about our kidneys?  

Like our liver, our kidneys are one of our body’s natural filters, removing waste, and excess water from our bloodstream. They also keep a balance of chemicals and nutrients in our bodies (like sodium, potassium, and calcium) and produce hormones that help to regulate our blood pressure and stimulate our bone marrow to make healthy red blood cells. 

What happens when our kidneys break down?  

Waste builds up in the blood stream, often leading to a weakened system, which can cause problems like high blood pressure, anemia, and nerve damage. People often need kidney transplants because they have kidney failure that is caused by Chronic Kidney Disease (or CKD), which is a serious condition that affects 37 million Americans, and is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S.  

It is not easy to detect when our kidneys are breaking down. Patients with kidney disease may lose up to 90% of their kidney functions before symptoms even develop, so it is important that we take the time to listen to our bodies and follow these eight guidelines for maintaining healthy kidneys. 

  1. Control Your Blood Pressure—One of the most important steps to protecting your kidneys, you can lower your blood pressure by drinking water and eating a heart-healthy low-sodium diet. You may also take prescription blood pressure medication if your physician has diagnosed you with high blood pressure. 
  1. Be Careful with Over-the-Counter Medicines— Did you know that commonly used pain relievers (like Ibuprofen or Naproxen) can damage your kidneys? Several over-the-counter pain and cold medicines are “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs” (or NSAIDs), so ask your physician if the medicines you take are safe to use.  
  1. Make Physical Activity a Priority—Physical activity can help your kidneys out by reducing stress, lowering your weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose. Try to be active for 30 minutes or more on most days. If the pandemic has kept you inside for an extended period, get moving again! Ask your health care provider about physical activities that are right for you. 
  1. Get Enough Sleep—Getting enough sleep is important to your kidney’s health. It helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure, as well as improves your physical and mental health. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. 
  1. Do Not Smoke—Cigarette smoking can make kidney damage worse, and quitting smoking can help lower blood pressure, which is good for your kidneys, not to mention lowering your chances of having a heart attack, or a stroke.  
  1. Limit Alcohol—Drinking alcohol, which contains ethanol (a carcinogen), is linked to several types of cancer and organ damage, including our kidneys. Ethanol harms a kidney’s delicate internal structure, and reduces their ability to filter blood, (which can lead to high blood pressure), so limit your alcohol intake. 
  1. Watch Your Weight—Carrying around added weight makes all your organs (including your kidneys) work harder and can lead to kidney damage.  
  1. Find Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress—Stress can damage your kidneys by raising your blood pressure, blood glucose level, plus it can lead to depression. So, follow the above 7 steps—they are not only good for your kidneys, but they are also a healthy way to cope with stress, too. 

All of us at Family HealthCare Associates know that making these lifestyle changes when you have no symptoms may be challenging, but it is worthwhile. Not only will these measures help protect your kidneys, but they also help prevent heart disease while improving your overall health.