Healthy kidneys

risk factor

Healthy kidneys

Human kidneys are bean-shaped organs, each roughly the size of a fist. They are located on either side of the back bone deep in the abdominal cavity, beneath the rib cage.  Kidneys perform many functions to keep us healthy. Their main job is to remove toxins and excess water from the blood. They also help to control the blood pressure, to produce red blood cells and to keep the bones healthy.

Kidneys also control the blood levels of many minerals and salts including sodium and potassium, and monitor blood acidity. Every day, they regulate salt and water levels in the body so that the blood pressure remains in the normal range.

Kidney diseases are silent killers that will largely affect the quality of life. There are however several easy ways to reduce the risk of developing kidney disease.

Keep fit and active: It helps reduce blood pressure and the risk of chronic kidney disease.

Control blood sugar: About half of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage, so it is important for diabetics to get regular tests to check their kidney function. Blood tests for  serum creatinine and eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) will tell us about the total kidney function. Presence of excess protein or albumin in the urine is also a marker of kidney damage. If detected early, this damage can be reduced.

Check blood pressure: High blood pressure can lead to kidney damage. The normal blood pressure level is less than 140/80 mmhg. One should adopt lifestyle and dietary changes while regularly monitoring their blood pressure.

Reduce salt intake: The recommended amount is 5-6 grams of salt per day (around a tsp). Try and limit the amount of processed and restaurant food and do not add extra salt to your food.

Drink enough water: Drinking two litres of water per day should be sufficient to maintain good health by helping the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body. However, aggressive fluid loading is not recommended. It’s important to keep in mind that the right level of fluid intake for any individual depends on their gender, exercise, climate, health conditions, pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Do not smoke: Smoking accelerates the process of atherosclerosis, which is hardening of the blood vessels and there by slows the blood flow to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it impairs their ability to function properly. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50%.

Do not pop pills often: Common pain killers – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like brufen, combiflam and voveran – are known to cause kidney damage if taken regularly. Such medications probably do not pose significant danger if the kidneys are relatively healthy and when one uses them only during emergencies. However, in situations of chronic pain like, arthritis or backache, one has to consult a doctor to find a way to control the pain without putting one’s kidneys at risk.

(The author is consultant, Nephrology, Institute of Renal Sciences, Sakra
World Hospital, Bengaluru)

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