The kidneys, two organs located on either side of your spine just above the waist, perform several life-sustaining roles. They cleanse your blood by removing waste and excess fluids, maintain the balance of salt and minerals in your blood, and help regulate blood pressure.
Each bean-shaped kidney is 4 to 5 inches long and contains about a million nephrons, which are like tiny pouches. Each nephron has a filter at one end, called a glomerulus, to filter your blood. Your overall kidney function can be measured by how quickly blood is filtered through these glomeruli. This measurement is called the glomerular filtration rate.
When the kidneys become damaged, waste products and fluid can build up in the body, causing a swelling in your hands and feet, shortness of breath, problems with urination. If left untreated, diseased kidneys may eventually stop functioning completely. Loss of kidney function is a serious — potentially fatal — condition.
The Role of Your Kidneys
• Maintain your body’s balance of water and concentration of minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus in your blood.
• Remove waste by-products from the blood after digestion, muscle activity, and exposure to chemicals or medications.
• Produce renin, an enzyme that helps regulate blood pressure.
• Produce erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production.
• Produce an active form of vitamin D, needed for bone health.
How To Protect Your Kidneys
Kidney health is mostly about prevention – learning which foods to eat and avoid, as well as talking with your doctor about the necessary diagnostic tests.
1. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of kidney failure, get your blood and urine checked for kidney disease.
2. Help educate your faith-based community about the kidney connection.
3. Use spices, herbs and sodium-free seasonings in place of salt.
4. For those recently diagnosed with kidney disease, find out about the basics of kidney disease and what it means for you.
5. Talk to loved ones with diabetes and high blood pressure about getting tested for kidney disease.
Remember that if you have additional questions about how to protect your kidneys, always consult with your doctor.
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