Living a healthy lifestyle is a way to keep vital organs as well as the whole body functioning optimally. Damage to internal organs in the body may not present with any symptoms early into the condition, it is therefore crucial that individuals aim at maintaining the organs at their best state of health at all times. Kidney disease can affect anyone, however, certain factors make some people more susceptible than others and some of these factors can be modified.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are located on either side of the spine and are usually the size of a fist. Kidneys play a very important role in the body and the health as well as quality of life of a person can be seriously affected when the kidneys are not working well. Some of the functions of the kidneys include filtering the blood to remove waste products and excess water, regulate fluid levels in the body to maintain balance, help to maintain electrolyte balance, regulate blood pressure, hormone synthesis among others. The kidneys have been likened to a ‘sieve’ that allows certain substances to pass through and be excreted in urine but doesn’t allow others. This implies that there are certain substances that should not be found in urine and when found may indicate abnormal functioning or disease of the kidneys.
Conditions that affect the kidneys could be those individuals are born with or may be acquired and present in different ways in people affected, it could be acute with immediate or short term presentation or chronic(long term) with disease progressing slowly over time. Kidney diseases can be caused by hypertension, diabetes, infections, kidney stones, cancer, certain drugs, autoimmune conditions, acute fluid loss( for example, severe acute diarrhoea, blood loss, severe vomiting), alcohol among many others especially when they are poorly controlled. Also, factors like older age, obesity, smoking, positive family history are some risk factors that have been linked to kidney disease. The presentation of kidney disease may depend on the underlying cause and some symptoms and signs of kidney disease include facial swelling( that is worse in the morning and may resolve as the day progresses) with puffy eyes, lower back pain, fever, changes in pattern and quantity of urination, itchy skin, arm or leg swelling, fatigue( puffy hands or swollen feet), headaches, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, reduced appetite, nausea. There may also be blood in urine, foamy urine, shortness of breath, anaemia, among other symptoms.
There are suggestions for maintaining a healthy kidney and they include:
Eat a healthy diet. It is important to eat healthy as doing so have many benefits, it helps to prevent obesity and diabetes which can affect the kidneys.
Drink adequate amounts of water. Adequate hydration by drinking water is good for the kidneys and can prevent dehydration as well as other conditions which may affect the function of the kidney negatively. Checking the colour of the urine can show a person’s hydration status, pale yellow or clear is fine but one may need more water if it’s dark yellow.
Avoid unnecessary and illicit use of drugs, including over-the- counter medications like analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs). It is advised that drugs should be used as prescribed and only when necessary with caution. It is important to seek the advice of your primary care provider or specialist before commencing a new drug as well as before discontinuing or altering a prescribed dose or type of drug if you on any form of medication(this includes herbal medication and dietary supplements). Most of the drugs taken are excreted by the kidneys, some of them are metabolized in the kidneys hence excessive use or abuse of such drugs may over burden the kidneys resulting in harm.
Limit salt intake. The American Heart Association recommends that the daily sodium intake should not exceed 2,300mg and an ideal limit for most adults should be no more than 1500mg/day. Excessive salt intake should be avoided in order to prevent unnecessary water retention, as well as maintain a healthy heart and blood pressure. Checking the sodium content on food labels, avoiding excessive consumption of junk foods, cooking with less salt are practices that can help reduce sodium consumption. Raw salt should be added to food after cooking or while eating.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. The functions of the kidneys can be impaired by excess alcohol consumption and other risk factors for kidney disease can be influenced by alcohol.
Avoid or discontinue tobacco smoking as it could affect the kidneys directly or indirectly, reducing its function.
Follow treatment advice. For people diagnosed with hypertension or diabetes among other conditions that could affect the kidneys, it is important that they strictly adhere to treatment recommendations by the primary care or specialists. Many times, complications of these conditions when poorly controlled may not be discovered until the damage caused is irreversible.
Regular health screening as recommended by primary physician is essential for early detection and intervention where necessary. Screening can identify presence of high blood pressure, uncontrolled blood sugar or derangements in kidney function, thus providing some information that could be used to assess an individual’s risk status. Individuals with a family history of conditions that cause kidney disease will also benefit from screening where available as a preventive measure.
Adequate exercise, sleep and relaxation are recommended for optimal health as they could help prevent some of the conditions that may cause kidney disease like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes among others. Effective stress management techniques, about 7 to 8 hours of sleep and 150minutes of moderate-intensity exercise/week or 75minutes of high-intensity exercise/week are recommended. Consult your doctor to know which exercise is appropriate for you.
If you have noticed any symptoms, it is recommended that you discuss with your primary care provider for further appropriate evaluation instead of neglecting it and do not self –medicate so as to avoid incorrect use of medication. Information provided here should not replace your doctor’s advice.
Consistency in healthy habits is essential due to the long time it may take before symptoms manifest, hence, the best time to start making healthier choices is now.
Health quote of the week “Prevention is better than cure” –Desiderius Erasmus