According to the National Institute of Health, a diagnosis of kidney disease means that a person’s kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood the way they should.
However, there is bad news and good news. The bad news is that most people will not know they have kidney disease until the disease has already progressed. The good news is that it can be treated successfully.
What are Your Kidneys and What Do They Do?
Located on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the rib cage, the kidneys are about the size of a fist and have the important function of filtering waste from the body. The kidneys filter and return about 200 quarts of fluid to the bloodstream every 24 hours. About 2 quarts are removed from the body in the form of urine.
In Addition to Filtering and Removing Waste from the Body, the Kidneys also:
- Balance the body’s fluids.
- Produces hormones that regulate blood pressure.
- Produces an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones.
- Control the production of red blood cells.
What Can Cause Kidney Disease?
High blood pressure, genetics or being over the age of 60 can contribute to kidney disease. Diabetes – a disease in which a person’s body does not produce enough insulin or cannot use it properly—is the leading cause of kidney disease.
High Blood Pressure:
This occurs when the force of the blood against the artery walls increases. This may lead to strokes and heart attacks.
Polycystic kidney disease is the most common inherited kidney disease.
Other Various Causes:
Kidney stones, urinary tract infections, using large amounts of over-the-counter pain meds, street drugs such as heroin and crack-cocaine can damage your kidneys.
Warning Signs of Kidney Disease:
- Tiredness/Decreased Energy.
- High Blood Pressure.
- Blood in the Urine.
- Frequent Urination (especially at night; difficult or painful urination).
- Puffiness around Eyes; Swelling of Hands and Feet
- A Creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) Blood Test, Outside the Normal Range (when your kidney function is reduced, BUN and creatinine are wastes that build up in the blood).
- A Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) Less than 60.
In order to keep your kidneys healthy, you should first get tested, and when you do, you should know your numbers.
Here are Some Examples of Tests Your Doctor May Run:
Blood Pressure –
High blood pressure can damage small blood vessels. According to the National Kidney Foundation, high blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes. So what should your numbers be? The National Kidney Foundation says 120/80 is best, 130/80 is okay and 140/90 may be good for some people. Aim for the lowest one.
Protein in Urine –
Albuminuria- this is an early sign of chronic kidney disease (CKD). By the way, excessive bubbles in the urine may indicate the presence of protein. A good number is less than 30 mg of albumin per gram of urinary creatinine.
Creatinine in Blood –
Creatinine is the waste product of muscle activity. Healthy kidneys will filter this out; if kidney function is reduced, your level will rise. A good score is 0.6 to 1.2 deciliter of blood.
Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) –
This is the test doctors use to gauge kidney function. This test is based on your age, race, and gender. You want a score of over 90.
You Can Protect Your Kidneys By:
- Keeping your blood pressure and blood sugar levels under control. Blood sugar should be under 100.
- Limiting salt intake.
- Avoiding NSAIDs, a type of painkillers, and never exceed the recommended dosage.
- Using protein in moderation. Eat a balanced diet.
- Exercising regularly. This will not only keep your kidneys healthy, but it will keep your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels down.
- Quitting smoking.
- Drinking alcohol only in moderation.
- Staying hydrated. Substitute water for sodas and sugary drinks.
As I stated before, many people may already have kidney disease before they experience symptoms, therefore to be safe, see your doctor and ask him to perform these health tests if he hasn’t done so already. Be proactive. Follow the recommendations to protect your kidneys and familiarize yourself with the important numbers given above.
Your kidneys will thank you.