Your body has two kidneys that filter waste products and excess water, allowing the rest of your vital organs to function properly and keep you healthy. Your kidneys help to regulate blood pressure and salt and potassium levels, produce hormones that control red blood cell production and trigger vitamin D to help you absorb calcium to give you strong bones and muscles. When your kidneys are not able to work properly, these important body functions aren’t able to do their job. This may lead to chronic kidney disease, also called renal disease, with potentially serious complications for your overall health. When this occurs, your doctor may recommend regular dialysis treatments to keep you healthy and prevent other future complications.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease affects more than 20 million Americans. A variety of conditions may cause kidney disease, one of which is diabetes. If you suspect that you or a loved one has kidney disease, be aware of the following symptoms:
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle cramping at night
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Puffiness around the eyes
- Dry, itchy or scaly skin
- Frequent urination (mostly at night)
Risk Factors of Kidney Disease
According to the American Kidney Fund, the risk factors for kidney disease include:
- Being of African American, Asian American or Hispanic descent
- Being over 60 years of age
- Family history of kidney disease
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
With early detection and treatment, you can be proactive about your health and lower your risk of kidney failure. For those with kidney disease, hope is not lost –there are many treatment options available to help you take charge of your health and fight back against kidney disease.
Conditions that Affect Kidney Disease
- Diabetes: This is the leading cause of kidney failure. Over time, diabetes can damage the small blood vessels throughout the body, and this affects the tiny arteries in the kidneys, as well as other organs and tissues. When this happens, your kidneys are not able to function properly. Over 35 percent of adults with diabetes have chronic kidney disease as well. Controlling your diabetes is one very effective way to reduce your risk of kidney disease. Learn more about diabetes.
- Heart Disease: Also called cardiovascular disease, this refers to the buildup of plaque in the walls of the coronary arteries that lead to the heart. This plaque causes the arteries to harden and narrow, making it difficult for blood and oxygen to flow to the heart in a normal manner. The plaque also exists in the body as cholesterol, a fat-like substance that flows through the blood. Too much cholesterol in the body can put you at a higher risk of kidney disease. Heart disease and kidney disease are connected because they both reduce blood flow through various arteries. Having heart disease increases the risk for kidney disease, and having kidney disease increase your chances of developing heart disease.
- High Blood Pressure: Also known as hypertension, this occurs when the pressure of blood against the wall of your arteries increases. Over time, high blood pressure can cause the arteries to narrow, weaken or harden, making it difficult for blood to reach your kidneys and making it harder for your kidneys to work. Increased pressure on the kidneys can affect their ability to properly filter waste from your body and perform other important functions. Although high blood pressure has no symptoms, it is one of the main causes of kidney disease and the second leading cause of kidney failure. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 20 percent of adults with hypertension also have chronic kidney disease.
Ways to Prevent Kidney Disease
Although some risk factors for kidney disease are out of your control, many can be managed with a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle. Adopting these changes can be the key to good kidney care and better health.
- Control your blood pressure: Keeping your blood pressure below 130/80 is a healthy range to maintain. When blood pressure become high, it can damage delicate blood vessels and arteries in the kidneys.
- Drink plenty of water: While not drinking enough water can cause kidney damage, drinking water leads to frequent urination, which enables your kidneys to function normally and remove waste from your body.
- Exercise: Doing at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise several times a week keeps your heart pumping and your muscles active. Walking, cycling, jogging or swimming are great options to start an exercise regimen.
- Keep your blood sugar under control: High levels of sugar in the blood can damage the organs, including the kidneys, notably the small blood vessels and arteries that are housed within them. If you have diabetes, you should pay careful attention to sugar levels, especially if you already have kidney problems.
- Limit alcohol: Heavy drinking can damage your kidneys by increasing urine flow and causing the kidneys to conserve fluids This prevents your kidneys from working normally and can lead to kidney disease.
- Maintain a heart-healthy diet: A healthy diet provides you with the proper nutrients and vitamins that your body needs to function normally. This means eating fruits and vegetables, grains and low-fat dairy foods, and reducing the amount of salt in your diet, which has been proven to increase blood pressure and adversely affect kidney functions.
- Monitor your use of over-the-counter medications: All use of over-the-counter medication should be approved by your primary care doctor. Acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen can cause kidney damage, especially if you take more than the recommended dosage. In addition, speak with your doctor before adding any new medications.
- Quit smoking: Kicking the smoking habit can lower your risk of many health conditions, including kidney disease.
- Schedule regular physician visits: Make sure to see your primary care physician regularly to track your blood pressure, heart rate and overall health. A regular physical will include basic blood work and a urine test to make sure your vital organs are working well. These tests also show if there are high levels of sugar in the blood or if your kidney are not healthy. Your doctor will also test for other conditions for which you may be at risk.
Learn More About Kidney Care
In the Press
Watch the video below from WJZ-TV highlighting Freeway's visit to our dialysis facility.