Kidney Health: The Organs With a Big Job

We may not give all that much thought to the two bean-shaped organs tucked inside our bodies, but like any part of the body, kidneys perform a critical function – and your well-being hinges upon theirs.

In addition to removing waste and excess water from the body, kidneys also regulate the balance of fluids, salt, potassium and other minerals that are necessary for good health. They are even responsible for releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production and the calcium balance in your body.

These three essential functions are critical to good health, so it makes sense to try to keep your kidneys in good shape – and to determine how healthy they actually are. Some risk factors for chronic kidney disease (CKD) are related to lifestyle choices that you can control, such as smoking. Some predetermined risk factors can include:

  • People with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease
  • Children who are born with kidneys that didn’t develop properly
  • People of Aboriginal, Asian, South Asian, Pacific Island, African/Caribbean and Hispanic descent

It’s important to know your risk for developing CKD. As many as two million Canadians have CKD or are at risk for it, and because it’s possible to lose 75 per cent or more of your kidney function before you become aware of noticeable symptoms, being proactive is key. There is no cure for CKD, only prevention and management, so if you’re over 50 or fall into any of the risk categories above, talk to your doctor about a simple blood test that will indicate your kidney function level.

In the meantime, visit the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s website, take the quick risk assessment quiz to find out if your kidneys are at risk, and see tips for speaking with your doctor.

It’s important we all try to get enough exercise, make good food choices and get enough rest.

So, what can you do to help keep your kidneys functioning properly? You should have your blood pressure checked regularly, because uncontrolled blood pressure can speed up the natural course of any underlying kidney disease. If you have diabetes, make sure your disease is being managed and that you are being well-monitored. Be careful about taking non-prescription medications, particularly painkillers, too. Always talk with your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you are taking so you understand the potential problems that can be associated with long-term use or abuse of these substances.

If you suspect that you or someone you love may be at risk for CKD, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. Remember that the disease progresses silently, often destroying most of your kidney function before you even notice that anything is wrong. That old adage, “ignorance is bliss” definitely doesn’t apply here. Where kidneys are concerned, the more you know, the healthier you can stay.

For more information on kidney health and CKD, visit The Kidney Foundation of Canada.

Made possible through the financial support of the Boehringer Ingelheim-Lilly Canada Diabetes Alliance