Doctor showing a kidney visual on a tablet

Be kind to your kidneys and the vital role they play

Understanding why your kidneys are so important isn’t a waste of your time. They’re called vital organs because they’re vital to your health, and keep your body functioning properly. Your kidneys act as a filter for your body by removing waste and maintaining a stable chemical balance that affects other organs and hormones. You need your kidneys to survive because they perform several jobs, and your body can’t work well without them. As a result, if you don’t protect your kidney health, your life may hang in the balance. March is recognized as National Kidney Month to bring attention to the simple ways in which you can avoid kidney disease and prevent kidney damage. So, examine why your kidneys are so vital, along with the conditions that affect your kidney health and the effective ways to treat them. Then, learn how to protect your kidney health, discover supplements that may help prevent kidney damage, and do your best to avoid kidney disease.

Why your kidneys are so vital

One of the first things to know is that most people are born with two kidneys. In some cases, people are born with only one, but can still live a perfectly normal life. The kidneys are bean-shaped organs that are part of your urinary tract and are found on either side of your spine, directly below your rib cage. Each is about the size of an adult fist, and while they may be on the small side, they have the big responsibility of performing a long list of vital functions that help keep your body in balance. Some of their life-sustaining roles include:

  • Removing waste and excess fluid to make urine
  • Filtering and cleaning your blood to eliminate certain compounds
  • Making red blood cells
  • Releasing the hormones that help manage your blood pressure
  • Producing vitamins that control growth
  • Managing your body’s level of vitamin D for strong bones
  • Regulating certain electrolytes in your body, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium
  • Maintaining the proper balance of water, salt, and minerals in your body

When your kidneys have to go

When your kidneys stop functioning properly due to high blood pressure, diabetes, or another health disorder, this is a condition called chronic kidney disease. It causes fluids and toxins to build up in your body. In mild cases, your body can still function normally. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, the disease can worsen and lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney failure. Since there are often no signs or symptoms until the damage is done, you may not know you even have kidney disease until it’s in the later stages. The only way to check on your kidney health is by taking a yearly kidney test that measures how well your kidneys are working.

Treating your kidney condition

If you’re diagnosed with kidney disease, don’t panic because there are many effective ways to treat the condition. Treatment typically includes efforts to slow the progression of the disease and reduce any complications. The treatments may include medications to manage high blood pressure, reduce swelling, lower cholesterol levels, ease anemia, and protect your bones. For more advanced conditions, the only options are dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Tips to avoid kidney disease

Luckily, there are several ways to prevent kidney damage, from making lifestyle changes to taking kidney health supplements to starting a healthy kidney diet. The following steps can help you protect your kidneys and avoid kidney disease:

  1. Get tested – Schedule an ACR annual urine test or a GFR blood test if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of kidney problems, or you’re over age 60.
  2. Control diabetes and blood pressure – Since these are the leading causes of kidney disease, ask your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor about ways to manage your blood pressure and blood sugar levels to prevent kidney damage and start on a healthy kidney diet
  3. Exercise on a regular basis – When you’re trying to prevent kidney damage, routine workouts can work wonders for your health.
  4. Follow a healthy kidney diet – Cut down on processed foods, which are a major source of sodium and have been linked to kidney disease. Instead, try the DASH diet to avoid kidney disease.
  5. Consider kidney health supplements – Based on your health, your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor may recommend certain kidney health supplements to prevent anemia and keep your tissues healthy, such as B complex vitamins, iron, vitamin D, and vitamin C.

Since March is National Kidney Month, march ahead to help raise awareness about chronic kidney disease and take the steps necessary to keep your kidneys healthy and working well.