You probably already have a general understanding of the important role that kidneys play in human health. However, kidneys do quite a bit more than most people give them credit for! Considering the fact that World Kidney Day comes around every March, we’d like to share some fun and important facts concerning kidneys. Here are the top 10 facts about kidneys you should know:
- Kidneys are the body’s waste-management service
The kidneys work hard to keep the human body functioning as it should. Waste management is one of their primary roles, which they carry out quite well in most circumstances. To remove waste from the human body, the kidneys process an average of 50 gallons of blood per day. The waste and excess water, which typically amounts to about 8 cups per day, is eliminated through the process of urination.
- It’s possible to live a healthy life with just one kidney
While the majority of people have two kidneys, only one functional kidney is required to live a healthy life; this is why it’s not uncommon for people to donate one of their kidneys to a family member or a friend with kidney disease. With only one kidney, you’d technically only have 50 percent of your renal function, but serious health problems aren’t typically a concern until renal function dips below 20 percent.
- A healthy kidney contains roughly one-million nephrons
Nephrons are the tiny units in the kidneys that are responsible for filtering out waste products. With age, the number of functional nephrons in the kidneys will start to fall. The remaining nephrons make up for this by getting larger through a process known as hypertrophy. Once enlarged, nephrons are able to process more waste than they would be able to otherwise.
- Each kidney is roughly the size of your fist
Roughly the size of a fist, an adult kidney weighs about five ounces. However, when a person is born with only one kidney, it’s not uncommon for it to grow to be twice the normal size. As mentioned earlier, nephron hypertrophy occurs when the nephrons are forced to process excess waste, which is what occurs when only one kidney is present at birth.
- Kidneys play a role in the creation of red blood cells
Kidneys do much more than filter waste products out of blood. In fact, they actually play a role in the creation of red blood cells. Through the release of erythropoietin, a hormone, kidneys stimulate the bone marrow’s production of red blood cells. Most of the time, this is done in response to falling blood-oxygen levels, which the kidneys can sense quite well.
- Kidneys keep your bones healthy
When your kidneys are healthy, they’re able to ensure that your body’s electrolyte levels remain balanced. When they’re not, maintaining normal electrolyte levels is difficult, which can lead to several problems. When phosphorus builds up in the blood, for instance, calcium is pulled from the bones, which makes them brittle. Kidneys also play a role in helping the body utilize vitamin D, which is important for strong, healthy bones.
- Kidney transplants have been saving lives since 1954
In 1954, the first successful kidney transplant was performed between two identical twins by Dr. Joseph Murray and his colleagues. The kidney-transplant procedure has come a long way since the 1950s. These days, the percentage of people who live at least one year after receiving a donor kidney is in the high 90s.
- The greatest cause of kidney failure is diabetes
The leading cause of kidney failure is diabetes. The reason for this is that high blood-sugar levels cause the kidneys to filter more blood than normal, which forces them to work harder. Over time, overworked kidneys will start to lose their effectiveness, and waste products will accumulate in the blood. If you have diabetes, the best way to prevent this from happening is to manage your blood-sugar levels well.
- High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure
High blood pressure can cause problems with numerous organs, including the kidneys. When uncontrolled, high blood pressure forces blood vessels to stretch, which can damage and weaken them. When this happens to blood vessels in the kidneys, it’s harder for them to eliminate waste and excess fluid from the body. If you have high blood pressure, make sure that you take steps to control it for the sake of your general health as well as the health of your kidneys.
- Kidney Failure is a major health concern in the United States
Between 1980 and 2009, the prevalent rate for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) increased by nearly 600 percent. Unfortunately, people with ESRD will not survive without dialysis or a kidney transplant. To keep ESRD rates down, spreading awareness about kidney health through events like World Kidney Day is of vital importance! Be sure to visit the official website for World Kidney Day with others to help reduce the prevalence of kidney disease in the United States and throughout the rest of the world.