Your kidneys are your body’s filters. They remove waste and excess fluid from your blood. People who have high blood pressure and diabetes are at higher risk for kidney disease because of the way these conditions damage the blood vessels and other parts of these vital organs.
The kidneys work by cleaning your blood as it passes through tiny filtering units known as nephrons. These filters remove wastes which are left over when protein is broken down. Whatever your body doesn’t need is eliminated in urine. If these wastes aren’t removed, they can accumulate and make you sick.
Your kidneys also help balance the amount of chemicals—such as sodium, phosphorus, and potassium—in your blood. The right levels of these chemicals are essential for good health.
Diabetes and high blood pressure can cause damage to the nephrons. Often, this occurs gradually over years and you may not realize what’s happening until the damage is severe enough to cause obvious symptoms such as puffiness around your eyes, or swelling in your hands or feet. Contact your doctor promptly if you see these warning signs. Blood and urine tests can tell you whether there’s a problem with your kidneys.
Once kidney damage starts, it can be slowed, but it can’t always be reversed. That’s why prevention is crucial. These steps can help keep your kidneys healthy:
• Drink plenty of water.
• Eat nutritiously and exercise. A balanced diet and regular exercise help prevent or control diabetes and high blood pressure, two risk factors for kidney disease.
• Use less salt and avoid pre-packaged foods high in sodium. Excess salt is associated with high blood pressure.
• Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it impairs their ability to function properly. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 40 percent.
• Talk with your doctor about appropriate medical tests. All adults should have their blood pressure checked periodically. If you’re at risk for kidney disease, your doctor also may recommend regular blood or urine tests.
• Follow your doctor’s advice faithfully if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. That includes taking your medications as directed. It may help reduce your risk of long-term complications, such as kidney failure.
For more information, or if you have questions, please contact Valley Medical Center’s Nephrology (Kidney) Clinic in Kent at 253.395.1944.