Don’t Take Your Kidneys for Granted
In a popular 1970 song, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell asked, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”—a question that could have been aimed at people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). The kidneys play a crucial role in maintaining overall health but are rarely appreciated until they become damaged and can no longer do their jobs. Unless Americans start doing more to protect kidney health, untold millions could soon be singing the same sad song. Recent studies indicate that 26 million adults suffer from CKD and that this number is likely to increase in the future. To raise awareness during National Kidney Month (March, 2008) and to mark World Kidney Day (March 13), the National Kidney Foundation offers a list of 10 key functions healthy kidneys perform.
10 Life-Sustaining Things Healthy Kidneys Do
- Filter 200 liters of blood a day, removing two liters of toxins, wastes and water
- Regulate the body’s hydration and water balance
- Regulate blood pressure by controlling fluid levels and making the hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict
- upport healthy bones and tissues by producing the active form of Vitamin D
- Produce the hormone that stimulates bone marrow to manufacture red blood cells
- Keep blood minerals in balance
- Keep electrolytes in balance
- Regulate blood acid levels
- Remove certain drugs from the blood
- Eliminate excess water-soluble vitamins
It’s not for nothing, in other words, that kidney specialists call the kidneys the body’s “master chemists.” When kidney function is impaired, these processes are thrown off and serious health consequences ensue, including kidney failure, heart attacks and stroke. Fortunately, early detection, through simple blood and urine tests, can prevent further kidney damage and there are a number of things people can do to protect kidney health. “They can start by simply turning off the TV and walking more, getting more exercise,” says Leslie Spry, MD, spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation. “That will not only reduce the risk for kidney disease but also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure because they’re all linked.”
The National Kidney Foundation will also offer free kidney screenings to people at risk for CKD in a number of cities across the country on World Kidney Day, March 13. For locations and schedules, click here.
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