6 Things You Can Do Today to Make Your Kidneys Happy

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AANP partners with National Kidney Foundation on awareness during National Kidney Month.

March is National Kidney Month – the perfect time to pause and thank the fist-sized organs that pack a punch when it comes to maintaining good health. Every day, two kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood. Put another way, every 30 minutes, your kidneys filter every drop of your blood, eliminating waste, regulating fluid levels and blood pressure, supporting bone health and promoting red blood cell production along the way.

Kidneys are small but mighty when it comes to necessary function. Sadly, 26 million Americans suffer from kidney disease, and most have no idea their kidneys are failing them. That’s because kidney damage is often an overlooked side effect of other snowballing medical conditions. Risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, heart disease and even age can trigger kidney problems. Making matters worse, there are often no signs or symptoms of early kidney disease, so people with gradual kidney failure are missing the critical window of opportunity to stop progression.

Thankfully, there are six things you can do today to boost your kidney health. And because one out of every three of us is at risk for kidney disease, today and every day are good days to tackle this simple list.

  • Follow the golden rule of hydration. We all know drinking water is essential to good health, but drinking too much water can be just as problematic as drinking too little, especially if you have kidney failure. Don’t worry so much about the 8-glass a day prescription and focus on drinking enough so your urine is light yellow or colorless.
  • Eat for better (kidney) health. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease, so choosing healthy, low-sodium, low-cholesterol foods that help control these conditions are also good choices for your kidneys. Even small changes can have a big impact. Just a few super foods a day can help keep kidney trouble away.
  • Get moving. Exercise also helps keep many kidney disease risk factors in check. A regular exercise routine will help you maintain a healthy weight, prevent diabetes and heart disease and control blood pressure and cholesterol. Your kidneys will thank you for every drop of sweat, and so will the rest of your body. (Just don’t forget the golden rule!)
  • Be a filter for your kidneys, and they will return the favor. Kidneys are responsible for removing harmful substances from the blood, including smoke and alcohol, so give them a break and cut back on the bad stuff. They also filter prescription and over-the-counter medicines, so never take more than what is prescribed and avoid medicines you don’t need.
  • Consider your personal kidney profile. It may not be you; it may be your kidneys. Some people are more prone to kidney disease, and they need to be more diligent when it comes to care. We know diabetes and high blood pressure are the biggest red flags, but there are many other factors to consider – heart disease, obesity and smoking also top the list, along with age, family history and ethnicity (African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans are more negatively affected than other segments of the population).
  • Schedule a kidney checkup today. Kidney disease is known as the “silent killer” because patients can lose 90% of kidney function before symptoms appear. This explains why kidney disease kills more people than breast or prostate cancer – people are simply not getting preventive and early stage treatment to manage kidney trouble. Your first stop should be your nurse practitioner or physician to talk about your personal risk and to have your kidneys tested. The best defense is sometimes a great offense, and if you’re one of the 26 million who unknowingly suffer from kidney disease, early intervention may just save your life.

Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, is the President of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. She completed her doctorate of nursing practice at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, with a focus on health literacy. She is a board-certified nurse practitioner and has provided primary care to patients over an 18-year period, 12 of which were in service to active duty and retired military members and their families.

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Mike Esser