WHY YOUR KIDNEYS ARE SO IMPORTANT
Located just below your ribcage on either side of your spine are your kidneys. These two bean-shaped organs, though no larger than your fist, constitute a vital part of maintaining the proper functioning of your body. The primary role of the kidneys is the removal of harmful substances, waste products and excess fluids from the body through the urine (production of which involves excretion and re-absorption). This process is necessary to maintain a stable balance of body chemicals and fluids. The kidneys also perform the critical function of regulating the body’s salt, potassium and acid levels.
In addition, the kidneys produce hormones that affect the function of other organs. For instance, erythropoietin – a hormone produced by the kidneys – determines the rate of red blood cell production. The kidneys also use calcitriol, an active form of vitamin D for the absorption of calcium, thereby promoting strong, healthy bones. Another hormone produced by the kidneys is renin which helps regulate blood pressure.
TIPS TO PREVENTING KIDNEY DISEASES
To keep your kidneys healthy and functioning normally, here are a few tips.
- Don’t smoke. The warning that smokers are liable to die young isn’t just a cliché. They have a higher risk for various types of cancers, kidney and heart diseases, high blood pressure and other health complications. So, be good to your body and stop smoking.
- Stop or reduce alcohol intake. Too much alcohol can inhibit the kidneys’ ability to filter harmful substances from the blood and maintain fluid balance. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, which affects the normal operation of cells and organs. If you must drink, don’t overindulge; the occasional drink or two should be okay.
- Watch your weight. Roughly seventy percent of people over the age of twenty are either overweight or obese. Being overweight can cause serious health problems, including kidney disease and kidney failure. Watch that waistline.
- Eat right. Good nutrition is key to good health. A balanced diet is important for everyone. What type of food you eat and its quantity affects the way you feel and how your body works. Avoid food with too much salt, because it affects your body’s sodium balance, which in turn affects the kidneys’ functions.
- Exercise. Anyone can exercise, irrespective of age or physical condition. You just have to carefully select the appropriate exercise based on your activity level. Walking, swimming, climbing stairs, doing household chores or gardening are easy options to stay active. Benefits include maintaining a healthy weight, prevention of kidney and heart diseases, better sleep, etc.
- Be Vigilant. Pay attention to labels when taking packaged foods or medications. Especially for medications, follow all instructions precisely as taking the wrong dosage may increase the risk of acute kidney failure.