Actor and comedian George Lopez almost didn’t make it. Since his childhood, Lopez’s kidneys never worked correctly and it was inevitable that he would have to undergo surgery. Lopez’s kidneys had been poisoned over the years from a congenital abnormality that caused a narrowing of his ureters, the tubes through which urine travels from each kidney to the bladder.
As a young man, Lopez suffered from hypertension and fatigue, neither of which alarmed him. Thanks to his wife Ann, who gave Lopez one of her own kidneys, as soon as 10 days after the surgery in 2005 he felt better than he had in his life.
The kidneys play a vital role in every day life. The kidneys sift through approximately 200 quarts of blood to remove about two quarts of waste and extra water on a daily basis, resulting in urine which is stored in the bladder until urination. If the kidneys are damaged or are unable to perform their cleansing duties, usually at or below 25 percent of function, kidney dialysis and possibly even kidney replacement surgery is necessary to sustain life.
Those with diabetes and high blood pressure need to be cautious and take care of their kidneys, although kidney disease can be caused by other disorders, like Lopez’s case. Among other ethnic groups, Latinos are at a high risk of kidney disease because of high rates of diabetes and hypertension.
Blood and urine tests are the primary ways doctors and physicians keep track of kidney function. In people with diabetes, uncontrolled blood sugar levels lead to abnormal amounts of sugar in the urine, ripping through the kidneys and causing protein leakage in the urine, which can end in kidney failure.
High blood pressure can ruin blood vessels in the kidneys resulting in incapacitated kidney function and the inability to filter waste the way it is supposed to.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, if there is prolonged kidney damage, meaning kidney disease, there will be an increase in waste build up in the blood leading to other complications and illnesses in the body. These complications include high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage.
Symptoms of kidney problems:
Early detection of kidney problems can prevent damage and worsening of symptoms. Most people may not have any severe symptoms until their kidney disease is advanced. However, you may notice that you:
- feel more tired and have less energy
- have trouble concentrating
- have a poor appetite
- have trouble sleeping
- have muscle cramping at night
- have swollen feet and ankles
- have puffiness around your eyes, especially in the morning
- have dry, itchy skin
- need to urinate more often, especially at night.
Keep your kidneys healthy:
- Keep your blood pressure at the target set by your health care provider. This can delay or prevent kidney failure.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood glucose level.
- Keep your cholesterol levels in the target range.
- Take medicines the way your provider tells you to. (Important! Certain blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors and ARBs may protect your kidneys. Ask your health care provider for more information.)
- Cut back on salt. Aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day.
- Choose foods that are healthy for your heart: fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Be more physically active.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- If you smoke, take steps to quit. Cigarette smoking can make kidney damage worse.