The kidneys are vital organs that are responsible for filtering excess water and various waste products and helping to maintain the balance of essential elements in the blood supply. They also produce hormones that help maintain healthy blood pressure.
Health issues with the kidneys can have a huge impact on an individual’s quality of life, both in the short and long term.
Here we look at the role World Kidney Day plays in increasing general awareness and understanding of kidney health.
What Is the Aim of World Kidney Day?
This is a global health initiative that aims to raise awareness with the public and the importance of these organs for overall health. It also encourages regular checkups for chronic kidney disease for at-risk patients such as those suffering from diabetes.
When Is World Kidney Day 2022?
World Kidney Day is on 10th March 2022 and the theme of this year’s event is ‘Kidney Health For All’.
Understanding the Kidneys and Kidney Health
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs about the size of small fists that are found towards the back of the body, either side of the lower part of the spine.
The Role of the Kidneys
The primary purpose of the kidneys is to filter out water and excess minerals such as sodium and potassium. The filtered end product then makes its way to the bladder where it is stored until we are ready to go to the toilet.
The kidneys have other important functions:
- They regulate sodium and potassium as well as pH levels in the blood.
- They produce a form of vitamin D that is important for building healthy bones.
- They release a hormone called renin that helps control blood pressure.
Kidney Disease vs Chronic Kidney Disease
Kidney disease occurs acutely when you have an infection or other issue such as an injury. This is usually temporary and improves with treatment or rest.
Chronic kidney disease happens when the organs are compromised over a long period. The disease generally gets worse over time and, if left untreated, can lead to kidney failure.
Chronic Kidney Disease Causes
The kidneys can be damaged and their function impaired because of several health conditions. The most obvious of these are diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. Lifestyle habits such as drinking too much alcohol or smoking can negatively impact the kidneys.
Some people are born with a chronic kidney condition that needs to be managed throughout their life.
Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms
People can develop chronic kidney disease and show no symptoms at all. In the later stages of the disease, however, symptoms can include problems urinating, feeling tired, headaches and chest pain.
One of the most common advanced stage symptoms is swelling in areas such as the ankles, legs and feet, called edema. Kidney disease itself can lead to other health issues developing such as heart disease, all of which have their own symptoms.
Chronic Kidney Disease Diagnosis
Diagnosis of chronic kidney disease is initially from a physical exam and will typically also involve blood and urine tests. If kidney disease is the likely problem the individual will have an imaging test and the physician may take a tissue sample for examination in the laboratory.
Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment
Chronic kidney disease has no cure in most cases and the emphasis will be on reducing pressure on the organs, depending on the type of condition that has been identified.
For example, an individual may be put on high blood pressure medication, or pills to lower cholesterol. Lifestyle changes can also make a huge difference.
How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy
Functional medicine doesn’t look at only treating the symptoms of a medical condition, but instead tries to identify the underlying causes of the issue. This approach to healthcare, i.e. looking for the root causes of a medical issue and then working to address them, is the core component of Miskawaan Health’s treatment philosophy.
If someone’s kidney disease has been caused by a poor diet, for example, then working to improve this part of their lifestyle makes perfect sense.
There are simple but important ways to keep the kidneys healthy and avoid chronic disease:
- Stay active and fit – it reduces blood pressure and helps maintain a healthy weight.
- Control blood sugar levels, particularly if diabetic or obese. There are various ways to do this including intermittent fasting.
- Actively monitor blood pressure and use approaches such as exercise and a better diet to bring it down.
- Eat healthily and drink lots of fluids.
- Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
- Reduce use of certain medications such as pain killers, which can put stress on the kidneys.
- Have your kidney function tested regularly if you are at risk.