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Kidney Alert

When it comes to our organs, we hear a lot of news concerning our heart but it is only one organ that is vital to our health. Other organs such as the kidneys play an important role and we need to keep them healthy.

Currently in the United States, more than 661,000 Americans have kidney failure. Among this group, 468,000 people are on dialysis and about 193,000 have kidney transplants.(1) The number of individuals suffering from kidney disease is on the rise but there are things we can do to prevent kidney disease. But first, what are kidneys and what do they do?

They are small organs and each one is about the size of a fist. They are located approximately in the center of the back below the ribs. Simply put; they are filters that collect waste material from the blood and the unwanted waste is removed through the urine.

They do other things too such as control red cell production and release certain hormones. The kidneys are also involved in regulating hormones that control blood pressure. This involves regulating minerals such as sodium, potassium and phosphorus. They have the ability to get rid of the excess minerals or put them back into the blood. When kidneys fail, that means that the filtering system has sustained damage and they do not filter the blood. Damage can come from diabetes and high blood pressure. It can also come from poisons or from a hit or blow to the kidney. When kidneys function at 100 percent, that means they are working well.

Keeping kidneys healthy includes eating a healthy diet. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and a reduced sodium intake can help. It is recommended that adults consume no more than 2,300 mg sodium per day. Sodium is found in prepared foods such as soups, bread, snack foods, cured meats and more. The label will provide the amount of sodium per serving. Foods high in sodium should be avoided or eaten sparingly.

Regular exercise, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy weight will also help. If diabetes or high blood pressure runs in the family, it is important to maintain healthy sugar levels in the blood and limit sodium intake. Also, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking can help preserve the health of kidneys.

If there is a family history of kidney failure, talking to the doctor can be helpful. Doctors can perform a urine test and a blood test to see if kidneys are in good working order.

Taking care of our bodies and organs, including kidneys, will help keep us healthy.

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About Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

is a dietitian in Southern California.

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