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National Kidney Month

We have another great article by our intern Dalila….

March is a very special month. You see, March is National Nutrition Month AND National Kidney Month! Today we are going to celebrate by going over some tips to help keep our kidneys healthy.

Though our kidneys are small, they are mighty. We typically think of kidneys as just part of the body’s filtration system, but they are responsible for so much more. Kidneys not only eliminate waste, toxins, and drugs from the blood, they also…

  • Regulate the body’s fluid balance and eliminate the excess

  • Regulate electrolyte balance

  • Balance the body’s acidity/alkalinity

  • Help regulate blood pressure

  • Produce hormones that stimulate red blood cell production

  • Produce an active form of Vitamin D which is important for calcium metabolism and strong, healthy bones

As you can see, healthy kidneys are key for good bone, heart, and overall health! Damaged kidneys can’t do their jobs properly and this leads to a host of problems including high blood pressure, anemia, weakened bones, poor nutrition, and even nerve damage. Though we have no control over some causes of kidney damage, we can do something about the two leading causes: uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension. If you have either of these conditions, it is important that you work with your healthcare team to keep them under control. Some easy tips we can all follow to lower the risk of kidney disease are:

  • Keep illness in check. Infections such as UTIs, kidney stones, and other conditions may impair kidney function. See your doctor when appropriate and follow his or her recommendations. Follow your doctor’s directions to manage chronic disease like diabetes or hypertension. Monitor your blood sugar and blood pressure as directed. High blood sugar and high blood pressure damage kidneys slowly and irreversibly. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

  • Use medication only as directed. Illegal substances damage your body, but even over the counter drugs like pain relievers can cause kidney damage when abused. Only use medications the way your healthcare provider tells you to.

  • Exercise. Exercise has many benefits. On top of building and maintaining muscle and improving cardiovascular health, it helps improve blood flow throughout the body (including the kidneys), helps lower blood pressure, and delivers a one-two punch to help stabilize blood sugars. Exercise is important for weight management and helps the body be more sensitive to insulin, both of which help with glucose control.

  • Stay hydrated. Unless your doctor recommends a fluid restriction, make sure to drink plenty of water to help your kidneys eliminate waste.

  • Eat balanced meals. Getting the right nutrients in the right amounts is important for overall health. You may know it’s important to limit your use of sodium (<2300mg/day for healthy individuals, <1500mg if you’re over 51, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or already have kidney disease), but recent diet trends may be putting a strain on your kidneys as well. For example, eating too much protein may not be good in the long run. Your kidneys have to work harder to filter out the excess, so lighten the load and eat only what your body needs. If you already have kidney disease, other nutrients to pay attention to include potassium, phosphorus, and calcium, as well as deficiencies of vitamin B, C, and D, iron, and zinc.

If you need help figuring out what your needs are, talk to a Registered Dietitian!

– by Dalila Ruiz

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