During National Kidney Month, we recognize how kidneys play an important role in keeping our bodies healthy. In fact, all the blood in our body takes a trip through these bean-shaped organs about 40 times per day!
Below, we’ll dive into what your kidneys do and how to keep them working in tip-top shape. We’ll also touch on chronic kidney disease symptoms and living kidney donors.
What do your kidneys do?
You have two kidneys on either side of your spine, between your ribs and your belly button. They are about the size of an adult fist, and they perform many complex functions to keep the rest of your body feeling well.
Most of us know that kidneys remove waste from our body. But did you know they also make hormones that regulate your blood pressure and red blood cells?
Yup, you can thank your kidneys for:
- Removing excess fluid and waste from your body
- Filtering toxins from your blood
- Regulating the production of your red blood cells
- Producing essential vitamins
- Releasing blood pressure-regulating hormones
Over a million tiny filters, called nephrons, make up each of your kidneys. Nephrons work together to filter your blood, remove waste and return necessary nutrients back to your blood. The waste and extra water is what makes up urine.
How to keep your kidneys healthy
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of this organ duo, it’s clear why keeping them healthy is a priority.
Here are some things you can do for your kidney health:
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
- Eat nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables
- Avoid eating too much salt or fat
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Stop smoking
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Lose excess weight
- Stay active
- If you’re a diabetic, keep your blood sugar levels under control
Chronic kidney disease
About 1 in 7 adult Americans live with chronic kidney disease. This means their kidneys are damaged and are not functioning properly. Chronic kidney disease can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure or an immune system disease such as lupus.
The word “chronic” is used because the disease gets worse over time. If you’re at risk for kidney disease, talk to your doctor about getting tested. The sooner you’re diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment. Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse chronic kidney disease, but there are ways to slow the progression, such as lifestyle and diet changes.
Learn about living kidney donors during National Kidney Month
Individuals with chronic kidney disease eventually need dialysis or a kidney transplant. In the U.S, 100,000 people are awaiting a kidney transplant. Healthy people with normal kidney function can become living kidney donors. Our bodies can function normally with just one kidney.
A living kidney donor could donate their organ to someone who needs a functional kidney. This could be a blood relative, spouse, or friend. Kidneys can also be donated to someone anonymously (non-directed donation).
In this National Kidney Month article, we hope you have learned more about your kidneys and how to keep them healthy.