Fitness Facts: How to take care of your kidneys

By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services

March is National Kidney Month. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 37 million people in the United States are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD). As many as 9 in 10 people are not aware that they have CKD.

For these reasons, taking care of your kidneys, especially if you are at risk for kidney disease, is important. 

Connie Colbert

The kidneys are essential to the proper functioning of our bodies. They remove waste and extra fluid from your body. They remove acid produced by the cells of your body to help maintain a healthy balance of water, salts and minerals in your blood.

The kidneys also perform vital functions that control red blood cell production and blood pressure and activate Vitamin D for healthy bones. But over time, the kidneys can become damaged with little or no physical symptoms to warn you that your kidneys are in trouble.

If your kidneys do not function properly, it can result in:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Weak bones
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia

There are a few simple things people can do to keep their kidneys healthy and strong.

Ask your doctor for an Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio (ACR) urine test or a Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) blood test yearly, especially if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, are over age 60 or have a family history of kidney failure.

Reduce your intake of NSAIDs. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are over-the-counter or prescription pain medicines, many of them commonly known, that may alleviate your aches and pains, but they can harm the kidneys, especially if you already have kidney disease. Reduce your regular use of NSAIDs and never go over the recommended dosage. Some NSAIDs are listed below:

  • ibuprofen
  • naproxen
  • diclofenac
  • celecoxib
  • mefenamic acid
  • etoricoxib
  • indomethacin

Cut the processed foods. Processed foods can be significant sources of sodium, nitrates and phosphates and have been linked to cancer, heart disease and kidney disease. Try adopting the DASH diet to guide your healthy eating habits. This is a diet low in salt and sodium. To learn more, click here.

Exercise regularly. Your kidneys like it when you exercise. Regular exercise will keep your bones, muscles, blood vessels, heart and kidneys healthy. Getting active for at least 30 minutes a day also can help you control blood pressure and lower blood sugar, which is vital to kidney health.

Stay well hydrated. Staying well hydrated helps your kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body. Drinking plenty of water, and avoiding sugary beverages, is also one of the best ways to avoid painful kidney stones. Those with kidney problems or kidney failure may need to restrict their fluid intake, but for most people, drinking 1.5 to 2 liters (3 to 4 pints) of water per day is a healthy target.

How do I know if I am at risk?

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. High blood glucose levels over time cause damage to the inside of your kidneys. If you have diabetes, it is especially important to control sugar levels to prevent this damage.

Other factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Being African American, Native American or Asian-American
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Age 60+
  • Abnormal kidney structure

Signs of kidney disease:

  • Fatigue
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Swelling in your hands, legs, feet or abdomen
  • Pain in the small of your back
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Puffiness around your eye
  • Blood in your urine
  • Changes in urination, urinating more often or urine that is foamy or bubbly
  • High blood pressure

Learn more about your risk by clicking here.

If you are at risk for kidney disease or are experiencing symptoms, do not wait! See a health care professional as soon as possible. Early treatment is the key to permanent damage.

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Bible Verse

Be not afraid, O land (of Judah); be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things. (Joel 2:21)

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