This year we have Kidney Awareness Week from the 2nd to 6th of September. This is five days that we focus on kidney health and sharing tips on how to prevent or reduce risk of developing kidney disease.
Why all the hype around kidneys?
It might seem like it is only two small organs – but they have a very important function in our body:
· Kidneys are responsible to get rid of waste products (like urea, creatinine and salts)
· It tries to maintain a normal blood pressure by regulating fluid and electrolyte balance
· It plays a role in the production of certain hormones
For these two small, bean-shaped organs they play a big role in our overall health and well-being. If there is damage to our kidneys it can influence our overall health and quality of life – we might need to get dialysis to clean the body from waste products. Certain medications will also be prescribed by your doctor to help with blood pressure control, fluid and electrolyte balance and medication to assist with hormone production.
Who can get kidney disease?
Kidney disease can affect any one of us. There are various types of kidney diseases and sometimes kidney disease is secondary to other uncontrolled diseases:
· Diabetes and hypertension are two leading causes for developing kidney disease
· Certain kidney diseases develop due to genetics – a gene inherited from one or both parents
Kidney disease is a silent killer – often the symptoms are so mild that a person goes undiagnosed for a while. This period can lead to more damage to the kidneys as we do not adapt our diet and receive medication to assist the kidneys with their daily function.
How can we protect our kidneys?
1. Follow a healthy and balanced diet
A healthy diet can help prevent chronic diseases of the lifestyle like diabetes. It will also assist with maintaining a normal weight. Include a variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, good protein sources and healthy fats daily.
2. Maintain a healthy fluid intake
‘Consuming plenty of fluid helps the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body which, in turn, results in a “significantly lower risk” of developing chronic kidney disease.’ This finding does however not advocate excessive fluid consumption or overloading. The standard fluid recommendation for a healthy adult is around 2 liters per day. A good way to determine if you consume enough fluid is to be on the lookout for signs of dehydration:
- A dry mouth
- Less frequent need to urinate
- Dark colour urine
Should you experience any of these symptoms it might be a good idea to increase fluid intake.
3. If diabetic – maintain normal blood glucose levels
About 50% of people diagnosed with diabetes will develop kidney damage. The most effective way to prevent this statistic is to have regular check-ups with your doctor. If detected early enough the damage to the kidneys can be reduced or prevented.
4. Aim for normal blood pressure levels
The most common cause of kidney disease is high blood pressure. A normal blood pressure level is 120/80. Blood pressure levels can be monitored at a pharmacy or when you go for your regular check-up with your doctor. Should you blood pressure be slightly elevated dietary changes, increasing activity and certain medications can assist with lowering it.
5. Increase activity
As mentioned above, activity can assist with lowering blood pressure levels, it can also help to maintain normal blood glucose levels and therefor reduce the risk of developing kidney disease.
6. Avoid over-the-counter medication, if possible
Certain medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen) are known to cause kidney damage if taken regularly. These medications might not be such a big threat if your kidneys are functioning optimally and you use the treatment on occasion only. The problem usually arises in people with chronic illnesses such as back pain, arthritis or fibromyalgia. Discuss various options with your doctor to reduce your risk.
7. If you smoke – QUIT
Smoking damages our arteries and veins – this can lead to decreased blood flow to the kidneys. Kidneys need nutrient and oxygen rich blood to function properly.
If you have been diagnosed with a kidney disease just remember that it is manageable. You will have to make some changes to your lifestyle – but your doctor and dietitian can assist.
- Adapt nutritional intake according to blood values
- Receive treatment (dialysis) to assist with and improve kidney function
- Receive medication to ensure normal body processes.