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Taking Care of Your Kidneys

March 20, 2018

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering out toxins and keeping your blood clean. However, if your kidneys are damaged, waste can start to build up in your body and you can develop kidney disease. As waste buildup continues and your kidney function drops below 15 percent of normal, you are considered to have kidney failure. Usually, this progresses over time. However, acute kidney failure can happen in a matter of days or even hours. When this happens, you may require dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival.1

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), kidney failure has decreased significantly over the past few decades, yet still an estimated 23 million American adults have chronic kidney diseases.2 March is National Kidney Month, here are some tips to make sure that your kidneys are as happy and healthy as possible:

  1. Get your kidneys tested regularly
    If you are at high-risk for kidney disease or failure, it’s important that you visit your doctor every year for an ACR urine test or GFR blood test. At-risk individuals include: those with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, are over the age of 60 or have a family history of kidney disease.
  2. Reduce over-the-counter painkillers
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), like ibuprofen, are helpful for your aches and pains, but not your kidneys, especially if you already have kidney disease. This is the biggest risk factor for sudden, on-set kidney failure. So, while it’s okay to take them occasionally, take them only when you need them and never exceed the recommended dosage.
  3. Watch what you eat and drink
    Processed foods with high sodium, nitrates and phosphates have been linked to cancer, heart disease and kidney disease. Additionally, make sure you drink enough water every day, which will help your kidneys clear sodium and other toxins from your body.
  4. Increase your exercise regimen
    Regular exercise will help maintain bone, muscle, heart and kidney health. It can also help you control blood pressure and lower blood sugar, which is important for kidney health.
  5. Monitor blood pressure and blood sugar
    High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of kidney damage, especially when associated with other factors like diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. For blood sugar, about half the people with diabetes develop kidney damage, so it’s important to get your kidneys checked regularly.

Kidney disease can put you at risk for many other health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, anemia, weak bones and malnutrition. You are also at a higher risk for a stroke or heart attack. Additionally, a total kidney failure may affect your quality of life when it comes to your sleep habits, sex life and mental health. Early detection can slow or prevent the progression of kidney disease, you just need to know the signs to look for. As your kidney function decreases, you may experience:

  • Swelling, usually in the lungs, feet or ankles
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin
  • Fatigue during the day and sleep problems at night
  • Loss of appetite, taste, eating problems or weight loss
  • Little to no urine production
  • Muscle cramps, weakness or numbness
  • Pain, stiffness or fluid in your joints
  • Confusion, trouble focusing or memory problems

In the case of acute kidney failure, you may also experience:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Seizures or coma in severe cases

At St. Vincent Neighborhood Hospital, the inpatient care team can manage and treat your symptoms. If you need to be seen by a specialist, our telemedicine program connects you with a variety of physicians within the St. Vincent network, so you can be sure you’re getting the treatment you need. In the case that tests need to be run, our 24/7 in-house lab can turnaround results in one hour or less.

If you feel that you are having an emergency, get the closest and fastest care possible. Find the St. Vincent Neighborhood Hospital location nearest you.