A Healthier U


Your kidneys take care of you every day. They clean waste products out of your blood and eliminate excess fluids, turning them into urine to exit your body through your bladder. So, are you taking care of your kidneys? Well, are you? “Regular exercise and staying hydrated are important for kidney health,” said Nirupama Ramkumar, MD, MPH, a nephrology and hypertension specialist for University of Utah Health. “Also, avoid long-term, frequent use of medications that cause damage to the kidney like ibuprofen or naproxen.”

Not caring for your kidneys, or for your body as a whole, can put you at risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD) – a condition that affects roughly 10 percent of the U.S. population. If you have high blood pressure or suffer from diabetes, you are at a higher risk for CKD. A family history of kidney disease also increases your risk. “Chronic kidney disease means your kidneys are not working at full capacity and cannot filter out the toxins as they should,” said Ramkumar. “Using blood tests, we can estimate the glomerular filtration rate or GFR to measure the function of your kidneys. A GFR less than 60 percent indicates kidney disease. Similarly, protein in the urine (not normally present) is a sign of kidney disease even if GFR estimates are greater than 60 percent.”

The blood and urine test are important because in the early stages of the disease symptoms may not be present. It may not be until the kidneys are functioning at less than 10 percent that symptoms appear. “One may experience swelling of feet and ankles, decreased appetite, fatigue, shortness of breath, changes in urination pattern, nausea, vomiting and trouble with concentration,” said Ramkumar. “However, by then the patient may already be in advanced kidney failure.”

Once someone is in kidney failure there are really only two options: dialysis or a kidney transplant. Every 14 minutes in the United States someone is added to the waiting list for a kidney donation. The average wait for a kidney is more than three and a half years. However, if a person is made aware of their CKD before this happens there are things they can do to slow the progression of the disease. “We generally recommend a low salt diet (less than 2300 milligrams of salt daily) in patients with chronic kidney disease,” said Ramkumar. “Reducing the amount of added sugars and high-fat foods is also recommended for kidney health. In advanced kidney disease, one may need to reduce phosphorus and potassium intake as well.”

Take care of your kidneys, and they will take care of you.


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