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The kidneys are a pair of busy organs that help remove excess water and waste products from the blood so that we do not have to worry about toxic materials or excess fluids building up in the body whenever we eat or drink a variety of foods, medicines or other substances. Aside from its filtering and eliminating actions, the kidneys also produce some hormones with important functions in the body, such as renin, erythropoietin, and vitamin D.
Chronic Kidney Disease, a Growing Health Problem
Approximately one in seven people in the United States has chronic kidney disease, with about 26 million individuals being affected. Serious kidney damage that leads to a decrease in their ability to prevent build-up of toxins, fluids, and wastes in the blood can, over time, result in complications such as anemia, high blood pressure, nerve damage, poor nutrition, weak bones, heart disease, and kidney failure.
It is common among Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans. Other conditions that are linked to CKD include inherited diseases and congenital malformations of the kidneys, repeated episodes of urinary tract infections, autoimmune diseases and urinary tract obstructions.
Most people do not have significant symptoms of kidney disease until the late stages. They usually feel more tired and complain of having less energy. They may have poor appetite, sleep problems, swollen feet, puffy eyes, dry, itchy skin, and muscle cramps at night. Frequent urination at night is also common.
Chronic kidney disease cannot be cured but kidney failure can be prevented. Furthermore, for normal, healthy people, or in people who have diabetes or high blood pressure, kidney disease can be prevented by protecting these organs from damage.
Here are some ways to protect the kidneys from damage:
- Maintain your blood pressure within a normal range. If you are hypertensive, seek medical help about controlling your blood pressure to avoid complications, such as kidney damage.
- Maintain normal blood sugar levels. If you are diabetic, consult a doctor about managing your blood glucose levels to avoid the complications of diabetes, such as kidney disease.
- Drink a lot of water to maintain proper hydration and to flush out toxins and waste.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid processed foods that are high in salt and fat. One type of diet that can help protect the kidneys is the Mediterranean-style diet.
- If you are prone to develop kidney stones or kidney infection, consult your doctor and take steps to avoid them.
- Avoid overusing medications that can damage the kidneys such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes quitting smoking, drinking alcohol moderately, and avoiding street drugs, which could harm your kidneys and your overall health.
- Discuss with your doctor about taking over-the counter medications, health supplements, and other substances, which could affect your kidney function. Know which drugs trigger allergies and avoid them.