World Kidney Day returns this year to raise awareness about kidney health. To help, here are five simple ways you can look after this important organ.
Your kidneys are one of the most important organs in the body, as they perform a number of vital functions to help you stay healthy. They remove waste products from the body and regulate your body’s salt, potassium and acid levels. Your kidneys also produce hormones which regulate your blood pressure and affect the function of other organs.
Your kidneys can be affected by cancer and various types of kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is when your kidneys have some sort of abnormality, and you have decreased kidney function for three months or longer. One in five men and one in four women between the ages of 65 and 74 have chronic kidney disease to some extent1. Kidney cancer is linked to smoking and obesity, and in around a quarter of cases the cancer is associated with being overweight2.
Looking after your kidneys can help to reduce your risk of disease, so to coincide with World Kidney Day on March 10 2016, we’re sharing our top tips for keeping your own kidneys healthy
1. Stay active
Exercising often is great for your entire body, including your kidneys. Staying on the move helps to keep your body weight down which is also an effective way of lowering your blood pressure3. It’s important to maintain low blood pressure, as high blood pressure (HBP) can cause the arteries in the kidneys to narrow, which leads to kidney damage and even failure. This damage means the organ can struggle to control your body’s blood pressure, creating a negative spiral that can be difficult to reverse4.
Your doctor or a healthcare professional can help you to get started if you aren’t used to exercising regularly. They can advise on the right types of exercise for your age, body type and current health to help make sure you don’t suffer an injury. Find more guidance on how much exercise you should be doing.
2. Watch your diet
Healthy eating goes hand in hand with exercising regularly if you want to keep your weight and blood pressure down. When it comes to kidney health, one important thing to think about is how much salt you consume through your diet. This is because consuming too much salt can alter the balance of sodium and potassium that your kidneys use to filter blood and draw out excess water. Changing this balance reduces the function of the kidneys, pushing your blood pressure up and putting you at higher risk of damage5
. Make it a habit to check the nutrition labels on food in the supermarket and pick the reduced salt options to help you lower your intake6
3. Keep your body hydrated
Drinking plenty of water helps the kidneys to remove sodium, urea and toxins from the body and lower the risk of chronic kidney disease7. Aim to drink around 1.5 litres a day (approximately eight glasses) or even more if the weather is hot and you’ve been active8. Your urine should be straw-coloured, and if it is darker it’s a sign that you are dehydrated9. If plain water doesn’t do it for you, try plain tea, fruit tea or adding a low-sugar cordial.
4. Give up the cigarettes
Cigarettes may be closely associated with damaged lungs, but the habit also negatively affects your kidneys. Smoking is another cause of HBP, and also slows the flow of blood to organs such as the kidneys which reduces their effectiveness. If you smoke and already have HBP there can be an increased risk of reaching the last stage of kidney disease, known as End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)10
Stopping smoking isn’t easy, but there are options to help you. E-cigarettes are becoming popular as an alternative to conventional cigarettes, and a report from Public Health England has revealed that they are around 95% less harmful than tobacco11. Nicotine chewing gum and patches are also commonly used by smokers to help overcome their cravings.
5. Get a professional opinion
Looking after your kidneys in the best way possible includes finding out your risk of kidney damage and kidney cancer. If your family has a history of kidney disease, it is wise to go for a health assessment that looks at your kidney function. It is also sensible to check your blood pressure regularly so you can take action to lower it before any damage is done.
Health assessments to identify kidney damage and the required treatment are available from BMI Healthcare’s private hospitals and treatment centres across the UK. We recommend speaking to a nephrology consultant if you have any concerns about the health of your own kidneys.
To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 or make an online enquiry.