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Just one last drink; just one last smoke; just one last episode of your favourite show before you go to sleep. Even though every human on this planet claims something similar on a daily basis, i believe i speak for everyone when i say, just one last of anything is never enough. Human beings aren’t perfect and we often indulge in harmful habits that affect our bodies.
The human body is a complex system that consists of different, intricate parts known as organs. These organs each perform specific functions that are necessary to sustain life. The kidneys are two such organs without which our body would cease to function. Kidney is like a purification tank of the body. Every reaction taking place in every cell of our body is producing some bi-products which are toxic and hence dangerous for our body and the kidney helps expel these from our body.
Let’s dive a little deeper and find out all there is to know about kidneys.
What are kidneys and how they function
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of your spine, beneath your ribs and behind your belly. Each kidney is about 4 to 5 inches long and about the size of a large fist.
It is the kidneys’ job to filter your blood. They eliminate waste, regulate fluid balance, and maintain proper electrolyte levels in the body. All of your blood passes through them about 40 times per day.
Blood enters the kidney, waste is removed, and salt, water, and minerals are adjusted as necessary. The filtered blood is reintroduced into the body. Waste is converted into urine, which collects in the kidney’s pelvis – a funnel-shaped structure that drains to the bladder via a tube called the ureter.
Each kidney contains millions of tiny filters known as nephrons. You might only have 10% of your kidneys working and not notice any symptoms or problems.
If blood stops flowing into a kidney, it may die in part or whole. This can result in kidney failure.
To put it simply, the kidneys are potent chemical factories that carry out the following tasks:
- Remove waste products from the body.
- Remove drugs from the body.
- Balance the body’s fluids.
- Release hormones that regulate blood pressure.
- Produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones.
- Control the production of red blood cells
Reasons for kidney damage
Your kidneys serve several vital functions in your body. They can be affected by a wide range of disorders. The following are examples of common kidney conditions:
Chronic kidney disease (CKD): Chronic kidney disease (CKD) can impair kidney function. Diabetes or high blood pressure are the most common causes of CKD.
Kidney cancer: The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma.
Renal failure (kidney failure): Kidney failure can be acute (that is, it worsens suddenly) or chronic (a permanent lessening of how well your kidneys work). End-stage renal disease is characterised by a complete loss of kidney function. It necessitates dialysis (treatment to filter your blood in place of your kidneys).
Kidney infection (pyelonephritis): A kidney infection occurs when bacteria enter the kidneys via the ureters. These infections cause unexpected symptoms. Antibiotics are given to them by doctors.
Kidney stones: Kidney stones cause crystals to form in your urine and can obstruct urine flow. These stones can sometimes pass on their own. In other cases, healthcare providers may be able to provide treatment to break them up or remove them.
Kidney (renal) cysts: Kidney cysts are fluid-filled sacs that grow on your kidneys. These cysts can harm the kidneys. They can be removed by healthcare providers.
Polycystic kidney disease: Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is characterised by the formation of cysts on the kidneys. PKD is a genetic disorder. It can cause hypertension and kidney failure. People with PKD require ongoing medical monitoring.
It’s not just these medical conditions and diseases that affect the well-being of our kidneys. Many of us have unknowingly adopted certain behaviours and habits that slowly chip away at the health of our kidneys leading to complications or even kidney failure. Overusing painkillers, Too much salt, Eating Processed food, Not drinking enough water, Waking up hours past bedtime, Avoiding green vegetables and Smoking and drinking alcohol.
First signs of kidney problems
Most kidney problems do not show any symptoms in the early stages. You may notice the following symptoms as kidney damage progresses:
Muscle cramps: Muscle stiffness is caused by electrolyte imbalances.
Urine that is dark or has blood in it: When your kidneys’ filters are damaged, blood cells leak into your urine.
Foamy urine: Bubbles in your pee can indicate an excess of protein.
Itchy, dry skin: is caused by an imbalance of minerals and nutrients in your blood.
More frequent urination: Issues with waste filtering cause you to pee more frequently.
Swollen ankles and feet or puffy eyes: Reduced kidney function can cause your body to retain protein and sodium, resulting in swelling.
Sleep issues, fatigue, and a loss of appetite: If toxins accumulate in your blood, your sleep, appetite, and energy levels may suffer.
10 tips to keep your kidney healthy
As we found out about the kidney, its importance and reasons why it could sustain damage, it’s time to discuss the steps we can take to keep our kidney in a healthy condition and prevent harm that may be caused by our habits and lifestyle.
BFH talked to Dr. Raman Tanwar, MCH Urology, senior Andrologist and secretary general of the Men’s Health Society of India, who suggested 10 tips to keep your kidney healthy. These 10 tips are as follows:
- Reduce your salt consumption
This seasoning is at the top of the list of foods to avoid if you have kidney disease. Salt is added to processed foods, and many people will not pick up a fork until they have sprinkled salt on everything on their plate. Limiting your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrammes is an excellent way to improve kidney health.
- Maintain an healthy body weight
Overweight or obese people are at risk for a variety of health conditions that can harm the kidneys. Diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease are examples. A low-sodium, processed meats, and other kidney-damaging foods diet may help reduce the risk of kidney damage. Consume fresh, naturally low-sodium ingredients such as cauliflower, blueberries, fish, whole grains, and others.
- Drink adequate amount of water
The cliché advice to drink eight glasses of water per day isn’t magical, but it’s a good goal because it encourages you to stay hydrated. Regular, consistent water consumption is beneficial to your kidneys. Water aids in the removal of sodium and toxins from the kidneys. It also reduces your chances of developing chronic kidney disease. Aim for 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day. The amount of water you require is largely determined by your health and lifestyle. When planning your daily water intake, consider factors such as climate, exercise, gender, overall health, and whether or not you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Keep your blood pressure in control
High blood pressure can harm the kidneys. When high blood pressure is combined with other health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol, the impact on your body can be severe. The normal blood pressure reading is 120/80. Prehypertension is defined as a blood pressure reading between that and 139/89. At this point, lifestyle and dietary changes may help lower your blood pressure. You may have high blood pressure if your blood pressure readings are consistently above 140/90. You should consult your doctor about regularly monitoring your blood pressure, making lifestyle changes, and possibly taking medication.
- Maintain sugar levels
Diabetes, or a condition that causes high blood sugar, can cause kidney damage. When your body’s cells are unable to use the glucose (sugar) in your blood, your kidneys must work extra hard to filter it. This can result in life-threatening damage after years of effort. However, if you can keep your blood sugar under control, you can reduce the risk of damage. Furthermore, if the damage is detected early, your doctor can take steps to reduce or prevent further damage.
- Reduce cholesterol
Consume heart-healthy foods. Exercise has been shown to lower cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can aid in the increase of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol. Work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three times a week, with your doctor’s approval. Even a few extra pounds can contribute to high cholesterol. Small adjustments add up. Switch to tap water if you drink sugary beverages. Snack on air-popped popcorn or pretzels, but keep the calories in mind. If you’re craving something sweet, try sherbet or low-fat candies like jelly beans.
- Getting enough sleep
Our kidney works 24 hours. It’s continuously working to remove waste from our body. The human body requires a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep without which our organ’s ability to work efficiently is diminished.
- Avoid/quit smoking
Smoking harms the blood vessels in your body. This causes slower blood flow throughout your body, particularly to your kidney. Smoking also increases the risk of cancer in the kidneys. Your risk will decrease if you stop smoking. However, it will take many years to return to the risk level of someone who has never smoked.
- Keeping an active lifestyle
Exercise is beneficial to more than just your waistline. It has the potential to reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease. It can also lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health, both of which are important in preventing kidney damage. It is not necessary to run marathons to reap the benefits of exercise. Walking, running, cycling, and even dancing are all beneficial to one’s health. Find an activity that keeps you occupied and have fun with it. It will be easier to stick to it and achieve excellent results.
- Annual health checkup
Even with knowing all the facts there is, the only way to be certain about your health is to visit a doctor.