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Seven Rules for Kidney Health

Posted 3/26/2018 by UHBlog

Kidney disease is called a silent killer. Learn how to keep your kidneys healthy and functioning properly.

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When it comes to kidney health, here’s some scary news: According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in three Americans are at risk of chronic kidney disease. What makes this statistic so worrisome is most people don’t know their kidneys aren't working correctly until their symptoms are so advanced they need dialysis or a kidney transplant. That is why kidney disease is called a “silent killer.”

“There is no doubt that kidney health is vital to a person’s overall well-being,” says urologist Ehud Gnessin, MD. “Making the right lifestyle choices to help prevent serious, life-threatening kidney problems is very important, and is especially true for people as they get older, when the risks of kidney problems and developing kidney stones increase.”

What are your kidneys and what do they do? The kidneys are two, bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, located just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine.

In terms of your urinary system, the kidneys are a 24-hour powerhouse of activity. Every day, your two kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood to produce about one to two quarts of urine, composed of wastes and extra fluid.

To help keep your kidneys functioning at their optimal level, Dr. Gnessin offers these seven proactive rules to follow:

  1. Drink up. “To dilute urine and keep kidneys clear of toxins in the body, drink two liters of fluid a day – about 32 ounces,” he says. “If someone has a history of kidney stones, we recommend drinking 2.5 liters – about 40 ounces – of water daily to reduce the risk of forming new stones. That’s because kidney stones are made of crystals that form together when their concentration is high. Drinking enough liquids dilutes the urine and prevents the aggregation of those crystals.”
  2. Halt the salt: Shake the salt habit. Too much salt in your body makes your kidneys work extra hard to restore a balance of electrolytes and fluids. Consistently high salt levels damage your kidneys and impair long-term kidney function.
    The recommended daily salt intake is 1500-2000 mg of sodium – about one teaspoon – per day. So stay away from hidden salt mines found in deli meats, movie popcorn, frozen meals, fast foods and processed foods.
  3. Limit over-the-counter meds. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) – like Ibuprofen, Aleve, Advil, Celebrex, Voltaren, Motrin IB and higher-dose aspirin – don’t pose a serious danger if your kidneys are healthy and if they're used for emergencies only. However, consistent, daily use of NSAIDs can cause kidney damage. Dr. Gnessin recommends people take the recommended dose of an anti-inflammatory drug for only about five consecutive days. After that, it’s time to check with a medical professional about your malady.
  4. Monitor your blood pressure and sugar levels. High blood pressure and diabetes are two of the top causes of kidney damage. Experts recommend that if you have diabetes and hypertension, your kidney function should be regularly checked. And if you are obese and have a family history of kidney disease, your kidney function should be checked routinely as well.
  5. No smoking. Smoking can damage blood vessels and reduce the flow of blood to the kidneys, which prevents the kidneys from functioning properly. Smoking can also raise blood pressure and increase the risk of kidney cancer.
  6. Exercise regularly. Staying physically fit helps keep your weight low and your blood pressure normal.
  7. Eat a healthy diet. Fill your plate with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, chicken, fish, nuts and whole grains. A nutritious diet will also keep your blood pressure and sugar levels in check.

“To keep your kidneys healthy, you must keep your overall body healthy,” Dr. Gnessin says. “Making good lifestyle choices, like eating a healthy diet, exercising, watching your weight and staying hydrated, are steps in the right direction.”

Ehud Gnessin, MD is a urologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Gnessin or any other doctor online.

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