The kidneys are fist-sized organs located at the bottom of the rib cage on both sides of your spine. They perform several functions, including filtering waste products, excess water and other impurities from the blood. These waste products are then stored in the bladder and later expelled through urine. In addition, the kidneys regulate the pH, salt and potassium levels in the body. They also produce hormones that regulate blood pressure and control the production of red blood cells.
The kidneys are also responsible for activating a form of vitamin D that helps the body absorb calcium for building bones and regulating muscle function. Sadly, kidney disease is one of the world’s major public health problems and more than 100,000 new cases are recorded annually in Nigeria, according to data from the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan.
Also, statistics from the Nigerian Association of Nephrology showed that 25 million Nigerians are suffering from kidney failure, meaning a condition where the kidney can no longer work without dialysis or transplant. Therefore, maintaining kidney health is important to your overall health and general well-being. By keeping your kidneys healthy, the body will filter and expel waste properly and produce hormones to help your body function properly. Here are some tips to keep your kidneys healthy.
BE ACTIVE AND FIT: Regular exercise is good for more than just your waistline. It can lower the risk of chronic kidney disease. It can also reduce your blood pressure and boost your heart health, which are both important in preventing kidney damage.
You don’t have to run marathons to reap the reward of exercise. Walking, running, cycling and even dancing are great for your health. Find any activity that keeps you busy and have fun. It will be easier to stick to it and have great results.
CONTROL YOUR BLOOD SUGAR: People with diabetes or a condition that causes high blood sugar may develop kidney damage. When your body’s cells can’t use the glucose (sugar) in your blood, your kidneys are forced to work extra hard to filter your blood. Over years of exertion, this can lead to life-threatening damage.
However, if you can control your blood sugar, you reduce the risk of damage. Also, if the damage is caught early, your doctor can take steps to reduce or prevent additional damage.
MONITOR BLOOD PRESSURE: High blood pressure can cause kidney damage. If high blood pressure occurs with other health issues like diabetes, heart disease or high cholesterol, the impact on your body can be significant. A healthy blood pressure reading is 120/80. Pre-hypertension is between that point and 139/89. Lifestyle and dietary changes may help lower your blood pressure at this point.
If your blood pressure readings are consistently above 140/90, you may have high blood pressure. You should talk with your doctor about monitoring your blood pressure regularly, making changes to your lifestyle and possibly taking medication.
MONITOR YOUR WEIGHT AND EAT A HEALTHY DIET: People who are overweight or obese are at risk for a number of health conditions that can damage the kidneys. These include diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.
A healthy diet that’s low in sodium, processed meats, and other kidney-damaging foods may help reduce the risk of kidney damage. Focus on eating fresh ingredients that are naturally low-sodium, such as cauliflower, blueberries, fish, whole grains, and more.
DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS: There’s no magic behind the cliché advice to drink eight glasses of water a day, but it’s a good goal precisely because it encourages you to stay hydrated. Regular, consistent water intake is healthy for your kidneys. Water helps clear sodium and toxins from your kidneys. It also lowers your risk of chronic kidney disease.
Aim to drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water in a day. Exactly how much water you need depends largely on your health and lifestyle. Factors like climate, exercise, gender, overall health and whether or not you’re pregnant or breastfeeding are important to consider when planning your daily water intake. People who have previously had kidney stones should drink a bit more water to help prevent stone deposits in the future.
DON’T SMOKE: Smoking damages your body’s blood vessels. This leads to slower blood flow throughout your body and to your kidneys. Smoking also puts your kidneys at an increased risk of cancer. If you stop smoking, your risk will drop. However, it will take many years to return to the risk level of a person who has never smoked.
BE CAREFUL OF EXCESSIVE INTAKE OF CERTAIN DRUGS: If you regularly take over-the-counter pain medications, you may be causing damage to your kidneys gradually. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can damage your kidneys if you take them regularly for chronic pain, headache or arthritis.
People with no kidney issues who take the medicine occasionally are likely safe. However, talk with your doctor about kidney-safe treatments if you feel pain regularly. Also, remember to have regular kidney tests, especially if you are obese; over 60 years old; or if your family has a history of high blood pressure.