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Wellness Words: The importance of kidney health

What are the kidneys and why are they important?

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located below the rib cage that lay on each side of the spine. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), these organs are part of the urinary tract and play an important role in filtering blood and removing waste from the body. Healthy, properly functioning kidneys filter about 150 quarts of blood every day or about a half cup every minute.

The kidneys work to remove acid produced by the body and aid in maintaining a normal balance of water, salts and minerals like sodium and calcium in your blood. If this balance is disrupted, nerves, muscles and other tissues in the body may not work properly. Aside from filtering blood and removing waste, the kidneys also make hormones that help control blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep bones strong and healthy.

Common kidney problems

Chronic kidney disease and kidney failure are two common health problems involving the kidneys. The NIDDK defines chronic kidney disease as a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and unable to filter blood and eliminate wastes properly. Often, this disease gets worse over time and can lead to a buildup of waste in the body.

Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys lose their ability to function and is usually diagnosed when kidney function has dropped below 15 percent of normal ability. If kidney failure occurs, a person usually requires treatment to replace the job of the kidneys. Treatment may include some form of dialysis where a machine filters the blood, or a kidney transplant to replace a damaged kidney with a healthy one.

Keeping your kidneys healthy

You are more likely to develop kidney disease if you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, so it’s important to prevent and manage these conditions. To keep your kidneys healthy, the NIDDK recommends:

∫ Making nutritious food choices — Choose heart healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, cut back on added sugars and reduce salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day.

∫ Add physical activity into your routine — Aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity or more on most days of the week. If you are not currently active, make sure to check with your healthcare professional before starting a new activity routine.

∫ Maintain a healthy weight — This will aid in preventing many chronic conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

∫ Get enough sleep — Try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night to allow your body to rest and recharge.

∫ Quit smoking — Talk with your healthcare provider and make a plan to stop smoking.

∫ Limit alcohol — Drinking alcohol can lead to weight gain and increase blood pressure. If you drink, limit yourself to one drink per day. This would equal about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

∫ Reduce your stress — Managing stress can help improve emotional and physical health. Try a yoga class or relaxation technique like deep breathing.

∫ Manage diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease — If you have any of these chronic conditions, it’s important to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check to prevent kidney damage. Talk with your healthcare professional about where your numbers should be and make sure to take all medications as prescribed. 

For those would like to learn more, attend a special program entitled ‘Kidney Health’ presented by Dr. Soo Gil Lee, Nephrologist of American Renal Associates Dialysis Center on July 24 in Littauer’s Auditorium.

The public is invited to join HealthLink Littauer for a buffet-style luncheon at 11:30 for $6 or attend the presentation only at 12 noon at no charge. To attend, call HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120 or email healthlink@nlh.org. We’re your community health and wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

DeRuscio is community education assistant.

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