March is National Kidney Month, a time to raise awareness about kidney disease. Because your kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins and waste products from your blood, their function is vitally important to your health.
It’s true that we can function normally with one kidney, in the event of a loss, but disease in both kidneys can be disastrous. There are many different types of kidney disease, ranging from minor to life threatening. It is important to learn how to protect your kidneys and spot signs of a developing problem.
First, promote kidney health by…
- Avoiding excess salt, which can disrupt the balance of minerals in your blood
- Avoiding processed foods and eat more fresh, whole foods
- Exercising regularly
- Taking other steps to control blood pressure, which is a risk factor for kidney disease
- Drinking plenty of water and stay hydrated
- Abstaining from medications that aren’t absolutely necessary, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Living a healthier lifestyle in general (avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, for example)
In addition, have your kidney function tested regularly if you…
- Have diabetes
- Have high blood pressure
- Are overweight
- Have a family history of kidney disease
Staying on top of your kidney health, if you have any of the above risk factors, is extra important. If a problem does develop your doctor can recommend treatments earlier, which can be much more effective than if a problem goes undetected for a long period of time.
Finally, be on the lookout for signs of a kidney problem:
- Trouble concentrating
- Inability to sleep
- Increased or decreased urination
- Dry, itchy skin
- Foamy urine
- Blood in your urine
- Swelling of feet or ankles
- Puffiness around eyes
- Reduced appetite
- Muscle cramps
Any time you notice the above symptoms, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment. Many forms of kidney disease can be corrected, but earlier detection is always preferable.