Kidneys are the single most transplanted organ in our bodies. And unfortunately, kidney disease is on the rise in the U.S.
Since March is National Kidney Month, the folks at MediGO want to spread the word about keeping kidneys healthy. We want to reduce the number of people on the wait list for a kidney transplant – and that begins with understanding what it takes to keep kidneys healthy.
So how do you know if your kidneys are healthy? “It’s worth finding out,” says Dr. Joseph Scalea, Chief Medical Officer, Multi-organ transplant surgeon, and co-founder of MediGO, “especially when you consider that 37 million American adults have kidney disease – and most don’t even know it.”
Both of your kidneys need to stay healthy to do the hard work of controlling your body’s fluid levels and filtering out wastes and toxins from the blood. But how do you know if there is a problem?
Here are some tell-tale signs:
- You’re more tired than usual or have trouble concentrating or sleeping (toxins building up in your blood).
- You’re anemic (low red cell count) which can cause weakness and fatigue.
- You have a poor appetite.
- You have dry and itchy skin (a sign of mineral and bone disease that can accompany advanced kidney disease).
- You are urinating much more often than usual – particularly at night.
- There is blood in your urine (meaning your kidney filter systems are leaking red cells)
- There is froth in your urine (which is a sign of unprocessed protein leaking from your kidneys).
- Your ankles or feet are swollen (sodium retention).
- Your muscles often cramp (electrolyte imbalances).
Of course, having a few of these symptoms doesn’t guarantee you have kidney disease. But they are signs your medical practitioner will want to know about so she or he can test for kidney disease. Usually a few simple blood tests will confirm a suspected diagnosis.
So – how to you keep your kidneys working efficiently so you won’t ever need to worry about needing dialysis or a kidney transplant?
Here are 7 effective ways to keep your kidneys in peak condition:
- Make exercise a priority to keep your blood pressure under control and sugar levels down.
- Drinking plenty of fluids (48 to 64 ounces of water per day is commonly recommended). Kidneys need lots of water to properly filter body fluids. (Lots of water will also help prevent kidney stones.)
- Stay at your ideal weight. The more you weigh, the more work your kidneys have to do.
- Eat more fresh veggies and keep an eye on highly processed meats (usually full of salt) and high-fat foods.
- Monitor over the counter pain relief medications. They tend to build up in your kidneys over time, especially if you take meds like ibuprofen and naproxen on a daily basis.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys and can raise the risk of kidney cancer by as much as 50%.
- Have your kidney function monitored on a regular basis – especially if you have pre-diabetes or diabetes.
Kidneys deserve attention and recognition in honor of National Kidney Month. And, as the most often transplanted organ in the body, the health professionals at MediGO think they are well worth protecting.