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Give Your Kidneys Some Love

Though there are many health issues that affect the American population, advances in treatment and prevention are helping people live longer. Regrettably, due in part to the lack of new therapies to slow or reverse kidney health issues  over the last two decades, chronic kidney health issues are the fastest rising noninfectious disease in all 50 states.

It’s a dangerous and silent epidemic with no known cure. Once considered a problem of people over age 60, younger adults ages 20 to 54 are now being diagnosed more and more. Furthermore, 90 percent of people don’t know they have a problem until it’s reached an advanced stage with additional complications. Statistics suggest 15 percent of adult Americans – 37 million people – have chronic kidney health issues.

March is Kidney Awareness Month and since 2006, the second Thursday of March is World Kidney Day, a global initiative aiming to raise awareness and education about the importance of kidney health, prevention, early detection, and management.

The kidneys filter water and waste from blood to make urine. They also balance salts and minerals that circulate in the blood, control blood pressure, produce red blood cells, and activate vitamin D for healthy bone development. Researchers surmise that high-sugar, high-salt foods and weight-related health problems like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are contributing to toxin buildup that interferes with kidney function. Other risk factors include family genetics, lifestyle choices and diet, prior damage to kidneys, medications, and age-related diminishing function.

Globally, it’s estimated 850 million adults and children deal with kidney health issues. They’re the 11th leading cause of death worldwide. So how do we make an effort to improve our kidney health?

  • Adopt a fit and active lifestyle. Thirty minutes of physical activity on most days is highly recommended. Most adults need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If stress is a problem, improve physical health with activities like walking and Pilates; adopt mind and body practices like meditation, tai chi, and yoga.
  • Keep chronic diseases under control. Diabetes can affect kidney function so test blood sugar levels regularly. Maintain cholesterol levels in target range to lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Monitor blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most common cause of kidney health issues. Work closely with your health care provider to ensure you’re taking measure to keep your levels within a healthy range.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Eat a balanced diet and make heart-healthy choices. Consume less than a teaspoon of salt, or 2300 milligrams, both hidden and visible in the foods you consume. Aim for less than ten percent of daily calories from added sugars.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The kidneys need water to create urine and flush out toxins. Men and women have different minimum requirements. Reduce alcohol consumption as it raises blood pressure and adds extra calories.
  • Do not smoke. It’s just not good for your body, your environment, and those you love.
  • Do not take over-the-counter pills like NSAIDs regularly. They are bad for kidney health.
  • Get kidneys tested if you have “high risk” factors. The presence of chronic health issues, weight issues, family genetics, and smoking puts people at high risk. Kidney health issues also present a greater risk for non-white males, and people over age 60.

Aging is inevitable, but with a responsible lifestyle, diet and exercise choices, our kidneys can reward us with many years of useful service.

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