Kidneys 101

Kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist.  The kidneys are near the middle of the back and are protected by the lower part of your rib cage.  Most people have two kidneys, but your body can work perfectly well with only one kidney.
 

What do my kidneys do?

Your kidneys play the important role of cleaning your body’s blood and removing waste and excess fluid in the form of urine.  They are your body’s natural filtration system.
 
Your kidneys also…
  • Regulate blood pressure
  • Produce a hormone that promotes the formation of red blood cells
  • Produce vitamin D to help keep your blood, heart, bones and teeth healthy
  • Regulate levels of electrolytes in the body, such as sodium and potassium
  • Regulate levels of chemicals in the body, such as calcium, magnesium and phosphate

How can I keep my kidneys healthy?

Most kinds of kidney disease can be prevented, so there are important things you can do to keep your kidneys healthy like:
 
  • Drink water (at least 8-10 glasses every day)
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure (normal blood pressure is less than 120/80)
  • Avoid using too much over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Limit your exposure to heavy metals and toxic chemicals
  • Avoid unnecessary drug use

If I have diabetes, what else should I do?

Uncontrolled diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease, so if you are diabetic, here are some important steps you should take to protect yourself:
 
  • Control your blood sugar.  Talk with your doctor about your target range and check your blood sugar regularly to make sure you are staying within your target range
  • Check your HBA1c.  HbA1c is a test that measures the concentration of sugar found in your blood over a three month period.  If it is high, this means your blood sugars are consistently higher than normal
  • Have your urine checked for protein, an early sign of kidney damage.  The American Diabetes Association recommends that patients with Type 2 diabetes be screened for protein at least once a year
  • Promptly treat wounds and infections
  • Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • Have your eyes and feet checked every year

If I have high blood pressure, what else should I do?

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney disease, so if you have high blood pressure, here are some important steps you should take to protect yourself:
 
  • Always take your medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit how much salt you eat
  • Be active! Do something active at least 30 minutes each day

 

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