Located just below your ribcage, on either side of your spine, are your kidneys – two bean-shaped organs, each no larger than your fist. Despite their size, however, your kidneys constitute a vital part of maintaining the proper functioning of your body.
FUNCTIONS OF THE KIDNEY
• The primary role of the kidneys is the removal of harmful substances, drugs, toxins, and other waste products from the body through urine.
• Your kidneys also help remove excess fluids from the body and this process is necessary to maintain a stable balance of body chemicals and fluids.
• The kidneys perform the critical function of regulating the body’s salt, potassium and acid levels, and also help the body maintain ideal blood pressure levels.
• The kidneys produce hormones that affect the function of other organs. For instance, erythropoietin is a hormone produced by the kidneys, which determines the rate of red blood cell production. The kidneys also use calcitriol, an active form of vitamin D, for absorption of calcium, thus promoting strong, healthy bones. Another hormone produced by the kidneys is renin, which helps regulate blood pressure.
TIPS ON CARING FOR YOU KIDNEYS
To keep your kidneys healthy and functioning normally, here are a few tips.
1. Eat right. Good nutrition is key to good health. A balanced diet is important for everyone. The type of food you eat and its quantity affects the way you feel and how your body works. Avoid food with too much salt because it affects your body’s sodium balance, which in turn affects the kidneys’ functions.
2. Stay hydrated: We say this to you nearly all the time, but that’s because drinking water is really essential to your health. Check how much more water you need to drink by observing the color of your urine, it should be straw-colored. If it’s darker, that’s a sign of dehydration, which means you need to up your water intake. Also, if the weather is hot where you are, you should drink more water to make up for water expended through sweat.
3. Watch your weight. Roughly seventy percent of people over the age of twenty are either overweight or obese. Being overweight can cause serious health problems, including kidney disease and kidney failure. Watch that waistline.
4. Exercise. Anyone can exercise, irrespective of age or physical condition. You just have to carefully select the appropriate exercise based on your activity level. Walking, swimming, climbing stairs, doing household chores or gardening are easy options to stay active. Benefits include maintaining a healthy weight, prevention of kidney and heart diseases, better sleep, etc.
5. Don’t smoke. The warning that smokers are liable to die young isn’t a cliché. Smokers have higher risk for various types of cancers, kidney and heart diseases, high blood pressure, and other health complications. Be good to your body; don’t smoke.
6. Stop or reduce alcohol intake. Too much alcohol can inhibit the kidneys’ ability to filter harmful substances from the blood and maintain fluid balance. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, which affects the normal operation of cells and organs. If you must drink, don’t overindulge.
7. Be Vigilant. Pay attention to labels when taking packaged foods or medications. Especially for medications, follow all instructions precisely, as taking the wrong dosage may increase the risk of acute kidney failure. Check your blood pressure and sugar levels regularly to reduce the risk of kidney problems, and make lifestyle changes to improve your results where elevated levels are indicated. Kidney failure increases the likelihood of other health complications such as heart disease, stroke, weak bones, nerve damage, anemia, etc. Symptoms of possible kidney problems include fatigue, difficult or painful urination, abnormal urine (foamy, pink or dark urine), puffy eyes, swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, and feet. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key, as this will help minimize the risk factors for developing kidney problems.