MARCH IS KIDNEY AWARENESS MONTH
You’ve probably seen people wear red to draw awareness to heart disease or pink to bring awareness to breast cancer, but kidney disease isn’t often the subject of much attention. That’s surprising since one in three Americans are at risk for kidney disease.
The kidneys perform several very important jobs for your body. According to the National Kidney Foundation, the kidneys remove wastes and excess fluids from the body and regulate salt, potassium, and acid. Hormones produced by the kidneys stimulate production of red blood cells, regulate blood pressure and metabolism of calcium, and produce vitamin D. That’s a lot of work for two organs that are only about four to five inches long, about the size of a large fist.
The risk of kidney disease is increased if you have any of these risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- Family history of kidney disease
- Over age 60
- Prolonged use of NSAIDs. Every medication you take passes through the kidneys. Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, reduce blood flow to the kidneys and can cause kidney damage if used regularly for too long. The National Kidney Foundation recommends using these pain relievers for no more than 10 days and at the lowest dose possible.
- Chronic urinary tract infections
- Chronic kidney stones
Kidney disease often has no early symptoms, so it can go undiagnosed until the disease reaches an advanced stage. Chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure. The warning signs are high blood pressure, blood or protein in urine, puffy eyes, hands, or feet, painful urination, and frequent urination, especially at night.
What can you do to reduce your risk?
The good news is that you can greatly reduce your risk of kidney disease by following these healthy guidelines:
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Lower your salt intake
- Use prescription and over-the-counter pain medications (analgesics) for the shortest time possible. Make sure your doctor knows what prescription and over-the-counter medications you take.
- Take antibiotics properly
- Never take medications prescribed to someone else
If you have any of the risk factors or warning signs of kidney disease, see your doctor regularly. Early diagnosis and treatment can slow progression of the disease.