Taking Care of Your Kidneys Helps Keep You Healthy

Taking Care of Your Kidneys Helps Keep You Healthy

Taking Care of Your Kidneys Helps Keep You Healthy

Lee esto en Español

Kidneys play a big part in your total health. They filter extra water and toxins from your body. They help control blood pressure. And they play a role in making red blood cells and in keeping bones healthy.

When your kidneys aren’t working as they should, waste can build up and harm your body. But you can help your kidneys help you.

Stay on Top of Your Kidney Health

Most people with kidney disease don’t have symptoms until the disease is advanced, when treatment is more difficult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the more than 35 million Americans who have kidney disease, 90 percent of them don’t know they have it. leaving site icon That’s why it’s important to have a yearly wellness exam.

Getting screened for kidney disease can help catch it early. Early detection and treatment of kidney disease can help prevent or delay kidney failure. You may have both urine and blood tests when you’re screened for kidney disease.

Urine test: Having more than the normal amount of certain proteins in your urine may show that your kidneys are not filtering blood the right way.

Blood test: Your blood will be tested for creatinine. When kidneys are damaged, they have trouble cleaning it from your blood. So higher levels of creatinine in your blood can mean you have kidney damage.

Tell your doctor about your family’s medical history, especially if someone close to you has kidney disease.

While some long-term kidney health problems run in the family, they are often caused by common health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. Be sure to:

Make Healthy Changes

You can take steps to lower your risk leaving site icon for kidney disease:

  • Healthy food choices are important. Start by watching how much salt you eat. With kidney problems, extra salt can build up and raise your blood pressure. Also be sure to get enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats and proteins.
  • If you’re overweight, talk with your doctor and make an action plan. Extra pounds raise your chances for kidney disease and many other health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Get more exercise to help keep your weight in line. Check with your doctor before starting. Then aim for 30 minutes at least three days a week to start. Work toward at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.
Diabetes Care

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is also called chronic kidney disease (CKD) or diabetic nephropathy.

Having diabetes for a longer time raises the chances that you will have kidney damage. If the damage continues, your kidneys could fail. People with kidney failure need either dialysis or a kidney transplant.

You are more likely to get kidney disease if your blood sugar or blood pressure is too high. You’re also more likely to develop kidney disease if you have diabetes and:

  • Don’t follow your diabetes eating plan and watch your salt intake
  • Are not active
  • Are overweight
  • Have heart disease
  • Smoke
  • Have a family history of kidney failure

Be sure to take your medicines and keep your doctor visits. You can slow down kidney damage and keep it from getting worse.

Are You at Risk?

Anyone can get kidney disease, but some things make it more likely. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or a family history of kidney failure put you at higher risk for developing kidney disease. People age 60 and older and those who are African American, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander or American Indian are also at higher risk.

If you have any of these risk factors for kidney disease, you should get a screening each year.

Not everyone who is at risk will get kidney disease. Talk to your doctor about how to lessen your chances.

Kidneys: The Chemical Factories of the Human Body

The kidneys, along with the liver, are our body’s cleaning department. These two organs help remove toxins and waste from the body. But they also do a lot more.

Sources: Chronic Kidney Disease, Symptoms and Causes, leaving site icon National Kidney Foundation; Six-Step Guide to Protecting Kidney Health, leaving site icon National Kidney Foundation; Diabetic Kidney Disease, leaving site icon National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2019; Diabetic Kidney Problems, leaving site icon NIDDKD, 2020; CKD Risk Factors and Prevention, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2023; Chronic Kidney Disease: Common – Serious – Costly, leaving site icon CDC, 2022

Originally published 2/4/2021; Revised 2022, 2023, 2024