The kidneys have a big job to do, but we often take them for granted. With March as National Kidney Month (and March 14 World Kidney Day), it’s time to consider giving your kidneys a checkup.
Kidneys are prone to disease. According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), a third of Americans – more than 26 million people are in danger from kidney disease – the 9th leading cause of death in the U.S. Most of us don’t realize it, since there normally are no outward signs until the disease progresses.
Since more than a half million Americans have kidney failure today and more than 95,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants, raising kidney health awareness is important.
What your kidneys do
Every day your kidneys – two fist-sized organs located in the lower part of your back – filter about 200 liters of your body’s circulating blood. Your kidneys also work to maintain your blood pressure and manage red blood cell production, salt and potassium levels, and your body’s acid content.
Your kidneys also expel drugs from your body, balance your body's fluids, and strengthen bones by producing vitamin D.
5 simple steps to ensure kidney health
The NKF advises us to all do the following simple things to protect our kidneys:
- Get tested Your doctor can give you an ACR urine test or a GFR blood test once a year if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, are over age 60, or have a family history of kidney failure – all common risks for kidney disease. You can also get screened for free via the National Kidney Foundation’s KEEP Healthy program: www.kidney.org.
- Go easy on the NSAIDs If you take any of the common over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), be aware that they can harm your kidneys. For safety, especially if you’re already in a high risk group, reduce your use of NSAIDs.
- Cut the processed foods Processed foods may be easy on your food prep time, but they are hard on your kidneys. Many common processed foods are often a source of high levels of sodium, nitrates, and phosphates in your body.
- Get physicalYour kidneys respond well to exercise. Exercising regularly keeps your blood vessels, bones, muscles, heart, and kidneys healthy. The NKF recommends being active at least 30 minutes daily.
- Drink plentyYour kidneys clear sodium, urea, and toxins from your body, but they need plenty of water to do this. Avoid getting hydrated via sugary beverages though, which will also help you avoid getting kidney stones. For most adults, aim to drink 3 to 4 pints of water/day.
During National Kidney Month the NKF offers other health activities to promote awareness of the risk factors for kidney disease:
- Free Screenings: Throughout March, the NKF is giving free kidney screenings. Locations and information are on their website.
- Take the “Are You at Risk” Kidney Quiz, which can help you with early detection – important in preventing kidney disease! Kidney Quiz.
- Join the live NKF Twitter Chat: NKF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vassalotti will be online March 14, from 12-2 pm ET to answer questions live at www.twitter.com/nkf using the hashtag #WorldKidneyDayNKF.
To learn more, check out this Six step kidney disease primer or read up on World chronic kidney disease statistics.
If you currently take a medication for your kidneys, visit FamilyWize.org where you can download a free Prescription Savings Card – and save an average of 43% on all medications – or use our Price Lookup Tool to compare prices at local pharmacies.