Keeping your Kidneys Healthy

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March is Kidney Health Month, promoted by the Kidney Foundation of Canada (www.kidney.ca).

Kidneys are vital body organs located below the ribs on either side of your spine.  Kidneys have three important functions:

  • They remove excess water from the body, or retain water if your body needs more.  They also regulate the levels of minerals your body needs to function properly, like sodium and potassium.

  • Kidneys act as a filter, cleaning the blood and removing waste from the body through the production of urine.

  • They also produce hormones that circulate in the bloodstream and regulate body functions like blood pressure, the production of red blood cells, and the uptake of calcium from the intestines.

Over time, our kidneys can become damaged because of the effects of disease or stress on kidney function.  Kidney damage usually progresses silently, destroying kidney function before any symptoms appear.  As kidney damage increases, waste products that are normally filtered by the kidneys and flushed from your body begin to build up in your blood and can make you feel sick.

You could be at greater risk for kidney disease if you have diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, an auto-immune disorder like lupus, or have a family history of kidney disease.

You can help keep your kidneys healthy by following these tips:

  • Keep your blood pressure within the range of normal

  • If you have diabetes, check your blood glucose level regularly and keep it within normal range

  • If your physician has prescribed medication for a health condition, take your medication

  • Reduce your salt intake, and aim for less than 1,500 mgs of sodium per day

  • Choose foods that are heart healthy, like whole-grain foods, vegetables, fruits and legumes, and low fat dairy foods

  • Know your cholesterol levels, and aim to keep them within normal range

  • Drink alcohol in moderation – no more than two drinks per day

  • Be smoke free.  Smoking makes kidney damage worse

  • Enjoy regular physical activity

  • Maintain a healthy body weight