Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

Here are some tips for preventing and recognizing the signs of kidney disease

Healthy Living

Thirty-seven million American adults suffer from some level of chronic kidney disease, and the National Kidney Foundation projects that number will only grow if people aren't more proactive about prevention.

That why it's encouraging Americans to learn more about kidneys — vital organs in the middle of your back that filter waste from the blood and produce important hormones.

Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage renal disease, which means dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant to stay alive.

"Kidney failure in its severe form is a major life-changing disease," says Roger Rodby, MD, a nephrologist at Rush.

Know the signs

Although symptoms aren't always obvious, it's crucial to identify kidney disease early — or determine whether you might be at risk — as medications and lifestyle changes may be able to prevent or slow its progression.

For starters, everyone should get checked for diabetes and high blood pressure, which are the leading causes of kidney failure.

"If you're not seeing a doctor regularly to be screened for these, you should, especially if there's a family history of either of them," Rodby says.

People who are 60 or older or have heart disease also may be at risk, while secondary risk factors include obesity, autoimmune diseases and urinary tract infections.

What you can do

The National Kidney Foundation has several suggestions for keeping your kidneys healthy:

  • Don't overuse over-the-counter painkillers or NSAIDs.
  • Control your weight.
  • Get an annual physical.
  • Follow a healthy diet.
  • Know your family's medical history.
  • Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Learn about kidney disease.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting tested if you're at risk for chronic kidney disease.

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