How often do you stop to consider your kidney health? Our 5 top tips show just how easy it is to look after these vital organs.
World Kidney Day was created to raise awareness about kidney health, highlighting the prevalence of kidney disease as well as sharing advice on how to reduce your risk of developing kidney problems.
What do your kidneys do?
Your kidneys are one of the most important organs in your 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.
What is kidney disease?
Your kidneys can be affected by cancer and various types of kidney disease.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when your kidneys have some sort of abnormality, and you have decreased kidney function for three months or longer.
More than 1.8 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with CKD and it's thought that around 1 million further people are living undiagnosed with the condition.1
Kidney cancer is the 7th most common cancer in the UK, with around 13,100 new cases each year.2
Looking after your kidneys can help to reduce your risk of disease, so to coincide with World Kidney Day 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 pressure.3
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 reverse.4
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 damage.5
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 intake.6
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 disease.
Aim to drink around 1.5 litres a day (approximately eight glasses) or even more if the weather is hot and you’ve been active.6 Your urine should be straw-coloured, and if it is darker it’s a sign that you are dehydrated.7
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).8
Stopping smoking isn’t easy, but there are options to help you. Ecigarettes 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 tobacco.9
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.