Kidneys are one of the most important – and often overlooked – parts of our bodies. Us nurses know how essential these miraculous filtration systems are for filtering our blood of toxins and dangerous poisonous compounds.
And despite advances in many other fields of medicine, treatment options are limited for failing kidneys. If your kidneys fail, there are only two options – dialysis and renal transplantation.
National Kidney Month has been established by The National Kidney Foundation to raise awareness of how common kidney disease is in America – an estimated 23 million Americans suffer from some form of kidney disease.
The two leading causes of ESRD – End Stage Renal Disease – in the United States are type 2 diabetes andhigh blood pressure. Both of these diseases cause the blood vessels in the kidneys to weaken, narrow, or harden – preventing blood from flowing through kidneys effectively, thus causing a failure of the body’s natural filtration systems.
The numbers behind high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are staggering – 70 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, and 29 million people have type 2 diabetes. Combined with no overlap, those two figures mean that nearly ⅓ of all Americans are at risk of kidney disease and future kidney failure.
However, proper steps to reduce risk of kidney failure can be taken, even by those who have type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Below, we’ve put together a simple list of 5 easy steps you can take towards better kidney health.
- Keep Your Blood Pressure Low
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney disease, and a crucial risk factor to mitigate. High blood pressure is usually defined as 140/90 systolic/diastolic, though a level of 120/80 is ideal for most healthy individuals.
If you have high blood pressure, you must take steps to reduce your blood pressure. This can include increasing physical activity, eating a more balanced diet with less salt, or even taking pharmaceutical solutions like various hypertension medications on the market.
- Put Down The Cigarettes
We’ve talked before about the irony of nurses who smoke. Smoking is one of the most damaging things you can do to your entire body – heart, brain, lungs, and even your kidneys included.
Smoking can affect the medicines you take to prevent high blood pressure and can slow blood flow to the kidneys and other important organs, increasing your risk of developing kidney failure or chronic kidney disease.
It’s time. Don’t let cigarettes control your life. Quit today.
- Keep A Close Eye On Your Blood Sugar If You’re Diabetic
Diabetes used to be a huge cause of kidney failure – but today, if managed correctly, fewer than 10% of diabetic patients will suffer from kidney diseases – down from nearly a third of all diabetes patients in the past.
It all starts with your blood sugar. High blood sugar can cause diabetic nephropathy, damaging the small blood vessels in your kidneys and damaging the glomerular filtration barrier (GFB) that filters blood within your kidneys.
Managing your blood sugar to keep it within healthy levels is key to preventing kidney disease if you have diabetes. So keep an eye on your diet, test yourself regularly, and do whatever it takes to make sure you’re following your diet plan.
- Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is toxic. We all like to indulge in a little boozing from time to time – such is life! – but the fact remains that alcohol is, literally, a poison – and the kidneys have to work overtime to filter alcohol out of your bloodstream.
In addition, drinking too much can dehydrate you, leading to poor kidney function, and can cause high blood pressure – another key risk factor for kidney disease.
Finally, chronic alcohol abuse can cause liver disease. Liver disease interrupts the natural balance of blood flow between the kidneys and liver, and continues to further stress your kidneys. Most patients who have liver disease and are alcohol dependent continue to develop kidney disease.
Having a couple of drinks on the weekend probably won’t hurt you – but if you have any of the other risk factors for kidney disease like diabetes or high blood pressure, consider reducing your consumption of alcohol.
- Keep An Eye On Your Weight
Being overweight or obese contributes to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – the two biggest risk factors for developing kidney disease. It’s hard to lose weight – we know – but even a small change in diet, exercise, and personal habits can help you shed pounds.
So check out some resources that can help you manage your weight – even a modest weight loss and activity increase can help you reduce your risk factors dramatically.
Follow These Steps To Better Kidney Health – And Share Them With Others!
Perhaps you’re not at risk of kidney damage – but look around the room you’re in. 1 in 3 Americans is at risk of kidney damage, so if you’re in a room with 6 people, chances are that two of them are at risk.
This is why National Kidney Month is so important. So many people are in danger and don’t even know it. So visit Kidney.org to learn more, share what you know with those around you, and take these simple above mentioned steps to reduce your risk of developing kidney disease.