(RxWiki News) Have you thought about your kidneys lately? March is National Kidney Month, which means it's the perfect time to check in with these vital organs.
You might not think often of your kidneys, working away deep in the abdomen, on the back side of the rib cage. They mainly function to remove toxins and maintain water balance in the blood.
They also help keep blood pressure in check, maintain healthy bones and produce red blood cells.
The problem with kidney disease is that it may be hard to detect. This is because most people will not have any symptoms until chronic kidney disease is advanced. Obvious symptoms appear only at a stage when it is almost too late — when the kidneys have failed and dialysis or a transplant may be needed.
The good news is kidney disease can be detected early on through simple blood and urine tests. When kidney disease is caught early, health care providers can help you start on a plan to prevent further kidney damage or heart problems.
Screening is critical if you are considered to be at risk for chronic kidney disease. You may be considered high-risk if you:
- Have diabetes and high blood pressure
- Are obese or smoke
- Are over 50 years of age
- Have a family history of kidney disease
- Are of African, Hispanic, Aboriginal or Asian origin
To keep your kidneys in shape, you can take the following protective measures:
- Keep fit and active. Exercise helps lower blood pressure and the risk of chronic kidney disease.
- Do not take over-the-counter pills on a regular basis, and always follow the directions on the label. Taking too much of an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) can lead to kidney damage and disease. And these medications are not generally recommended if you have kidney disease. Always ask your health care provider before you take any new medication.
- Keep regular control of your blood sugar level. Many people with diabetes develop kidney damage. These people are encouraged to get regular kidney checkups.
- Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause kidney damage (and lead to stroke and heart attack). Reducing your salt intake can lower your blood pressure if it is too high, but speak with your health care provider before making any major dietary changes.
- Eat healthy and keep your weight in check. These healthy habits help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with chronic kidney disease.
- Do not smoke. Smoking slows blood flow to the kidneys, impairing their function.
- Get your kidney function checked if you have one or more risk factors. If you have any of the high-risk factors listed in this article, ask your doctor about getting lab tests to check your kidneys.
For more information on kidney disease, speak with your health care provider.
Written by Digital Pharmacist Staff