Did you know that while you’re reading this, a pair of miracle organs in the middle of your back busy themselves with keeping your blood healthy and helping give you energy?
Of course, we’re talking about your two kidneys, which typically process more than 50 gallons of fluid a day. Many people know that kidneys actively filter out and cleanse toxins from circulating blood. Your kidneys get rid of these harmful toxins by passing them to your bladder, often as much as a half-gallon a day.
You may not think about them often, but your kidneys continuously work to keep you alive and healthy. Here are three reasons why your kidneys matter, and a few suggestions to help keep your kidneys working in top shape.
Your kidneys perform vital functions. They actively clean up waste and toxins in your blood through very complex processes. This includes drugs in your system. Your kidneys right now are providing a stable balance of body chemicals, including potassium, sodium and phosphorus.
Your kidneys are powerful chemical factories. They release important hormones that positively regulate blood pressure and tell your body when to produce fresh blood cells. They produce and activate Vitamin D to help your body maintain strong and healthy bones (calcium metabolism), and they keep blood minerals in balance.
You can’t live without kidney function. This is obviously the most important aspect of why we should try to keep our kidneys in good health. If both kidneys should fail, many people can continue to live through dialysis or a kidney transplant. But it is certainly preferable to take steps to keep your kidneys in good condition.
So how can you help keep your kidneys strong and healthy?
Protecting your kidneys is a good reason to have a regular checkup with your provider, even if you’re feeling fine. Kidney problems sometimes don’t produce symptoms that one may associate with disease, but they can be checked through simple tests.
Other health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are often interrelated with kidney disease – one can cause or influence the other. For example, if you have a history of high blood pressure, the untreated high blood pressure can damage small blood vessels (called glomeruli) in your kidneys. Over time this can lead to outright kidney failure.
If you have gum disease, this can directly impact your heart and your kidneys (so brush regularly).
If you’re overweight, you may be forcing your kidneys to work harder and filter out wastes above a normal range. Losing weight can help improve kidney health and also help reduce high blood pressure.
Here’s an important thought: sometimes we don’t want to hear or read bad news, so we put things off. Think about this – even making little changes over time can result in big improvements – consistently making even a small one percent improvement each day can result in a 30-plus percent improvement over a year. If you could make one small change today, what would it be? Drink an extra glass of water? Skip a soda? Keep it simple and consistent – over time you can see and reap the rewards.
In our region of southern Indiana, many of us face unique challenges from economic conditions in society. It can be tough to make changes by ourselves. Find a provider who can walk your journey of health together.
And since March is National Kidney Health month, why not take the one minute online kidney health test from the National Kidney Foundation? Go online at https://bit.ly/SICHC_kidney_health Then engage with your provider to keep your kidneys healthy!
A board-certified physician in family medicine, Dr. Curtis Thill has practiced in the Crawford County region for more than three decades.