- According to the National Kidney Foundation 26 million Americans, about one in every nine adults, has chronic kidney disease. The kidneys, two fist-size organs which are located near the middle of the back, just below the rib cage, generally don't get the respect they deserve. This is because many kidney diseases don't produce any symptoms until the damage is severe. Early detection and education as to warning signs of kidney failure becomes a vital component in maintaining healthy kidneys.
What Do The Kidneys Do?
They eliminate waste products via the formation of urine, but that's not all. Wastes in the blood come from the normal breakdown of active tissues, such as muscles, and from food. The body uses food for energy and self-repairs. After the body has taken what it needs from food, wastes are sent to the blood. If the kidneys did not remove them, these wastes would build up in the blood and damage the body. In addition to removing wastes, the kidneys release three important hormones:
• Erythropoietin, or EPO, which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells.
• Renin, which regulates blood pressure.
• Calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, which helps maintain calcium for bones and for normal chemical balance in the body.
Next to the heart, the kidneys are an important player in blood pressure control. In addition, salt and other minerals are kept at a healthy balance through the kidneys.
These two little power-organs filter approximately 200 quarts of fluid every day and concentrate it to a daily amount of 1.5 to two quarts of urine per day.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Failing Kidneys?
With increasing build up of toxic metabolic products in the kidneys, symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, impaired mental function, swelling of your skin, and muscle cramps will occur. When kidney function drops below 10 to 15 percent, a person needs some form of renal replacement therapy - either blood-cleansing treatments called dialysis or a kidney transplant - to sustain life. If end stage renal disease is not treated patients can develop seizures and other problems leading to death.
How Do We Monitor Our Kidney Function?
The National Kidney Foundation recommends three simple tests to screen for kidney disease: a blood pressure measurement, a spot check for protein or albumin in the urine, and a calculation of glomerular filtration rate (GFR) based on a serum creatinine measurement.
Creatinine is a substance constantly generated by muscles, released into the bloodstream and then filtered by the kidneys. If for whatever the reason, the filter-the kidneys-should be malfunctioning, the creatinine would increase before the filter could indicate a potential problem. Depending on your age, gender and race a creatinine of 1.2 can reflect a normal kidney function or a residual function of only 35 percent.
What Are Risk Factors For My Kidneys?
With increasing age we gradually loose part of our kidney function. However, this process will be accelerated with additional risk factors such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, stress and over-the-counter pain killers.
How Do We Protect Our Kidneys?
Anything affecting your blood vessels will also affect your kidneys. Therefore optimization of blood sugar control, maintenance of a normal blood pressure (less than 120/80mmHg), smoking cessation, and avoidance of kidney damaging substances are a few examples.
On an everyday level the following life style changes will contribute to kidney protection:
• A diet rich in whole wheat products.
• Fruits and vegetables.
• At least eight cups (two quarts) of fluid per day.
• Low salt ( less than 2.3 grams), low cholesterol diet
• Moderate protein intake.
• Moderate regular exercise (i.e., 30 minutes walking a day) and/or resistance training.
With failing kidney function it is important to schedule a consultation with a Nephrologist (kidney specialist). The Nephrologist will assess the kidney function to adjust possible risk factors and, if necessary, initiate medications which help to slow down the progression of kidney failure.
For additional questions or to learn more about your kidneys and your health please feel free to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hoffert in Southampton or Hampton Bays by calling 631-283-2100 or go to www.likidney.org
Health Insight Lecture Series
To meet Dr. Hoffert (Board Certified Nephrologist) and hear more about kidney health, be sure to reserve your spot in his upcoming Health Insights Lecture on Thursday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m. The lecture will take place at Southampton Hospital
's Parrish Memorial Hall. Call 631-726-8700, ext. 8 to reserve your spot.