by Crystal Welch, MSN, HHQI RN Project Coordinator
March is finally here, and with it comes many wonderful things, St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of Spring, Easter, and National Kidney Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in ten Americans have chronic kidney disease (CKD) and millions of others have an increased risk of developing it because of high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease. Additionally, kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the country.
Let’s learn more about these complex organs and start by getting back to basics.
You have two bean-shaped sized kidneys that are as big as your fist and are located toward the middle of the back under your ribcage. They contain tiny filtering units called nephrons made up of blood vessels and they have several important jobs, including filtering waste products from the blood and removing excess fluid from the body. In addition to making urine, these important organs also help control blood pressure and create hormones that your body needs to stay healthy. When your kidneys become damaged or begin to not function as well, your body can’t properly dispose of waste and that causes waste to build up in your body.
Know Your Risk
There are certain risk factors that might make you more likely to develop kidney disease. According to the National Kidney Foundation you may have an increased risk for kidney disease if you:
- are older
- have diabetes
- have high blood pressure
- have a family history of kidney disease
- are African American, Hispanic American, Asian, Pacific Islander or American Indian
Anyone can get kidney disease at any age. However, chronic kidney disease is projected to be on the rise in the United States. According to a report in March 2015, more than 50 percent of Americans currently aged 30 to 49 will develop kidney disease in their lifetime.
Kidney disease is amongst the top 10 causes of death in the United States. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases suggests several ways to focus on the health of your kidneys:
- Keep your blood pressure at the target set by your health care provider. For most people, the blood pressure target is less than 140/90 mm Hg. This can delay or prevent kidney failure.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood glucose level.
- Keep your cholesterol levels in the target range.
- Take medicines the way your provider tells you to. (Important! Certain blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors and ARBs may protect your kidneys. Ask your health care provider for more information.)
- Cut back on salt. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.
- Choose foods that are healthy for your heart: fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Be more physically active.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- If you smoke, take steps to quit. Cigarette smoking can make kidney damage worse
March 10 is World Kidney Day and a great time to spread awareness about kidney disease and how to prevent and manage it.
- National Kidney Foundation – Kidney & Kidney Disease Fast Facts
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – You’re Your Kidneys Healthy
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Testing for Kidney Disease
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Diet and Lifestyle Changes