March is National Kidney Month

National Kidney MonthThe kidneys are two of the most important organs in the body, and often the least understood. Most of us have two kidneys, one on each side of our lower back, and they remove toxins from the bloodstream and send them out to be excreted through urination. That’s very important to the healthy functions of all of our other body parts. Here‘s how to keep your kidneys going strong:

  1. Have an annual physical that includes a urinalysis. An annual physical allows your physician to develop a baseline of your health, or to understand what is ‘normal’ for you. An annual urinalysis is performed by viewing a sample of your urine under a microscope to check for any substances that shouldn’t be present, such as blood.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity forces all of our organs to work harder to maintain your body’s functions. Getting down to a healthy weight will not only look better on you, but you will feel better as well.
  3. Limit your use of alcohol and sodium. Alcohol and sodium are two substances that are especially hard on your kidneys when overused. Both of these contribute to dehydration issues as well as high blood pressure and both of these conditions force your kidneys to work double-time. Keep your sodium intake below 2,300 mg per day. An easy way to do this is to eat as many fresh vegetables as possible, rather than canned, and use a salt substitute to season your food at the table.
  4. Maintain healthy blood pressure. Most physicians want patients to keep blood pressure at or below 140/90 mm Hg, but consult with your physician for a customized figure. In some cases, medication may be necessary in order to keep you blood pressure low enough. Some blood pressure medications actually have a secondary, beneficial effect to the kidneys, so be sure to take your blood pressure medication exactly as your doctor instructs.
  5. Maintain a healthy cholesterol level. High cholesterol is linked to kidney disease, although doctors don’t agree on why. If your cholesterol level is too high, adopt a diet that will bring your cholesterol level back in line.
  6. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar levels within the healthy range as much as possible. Maintain a healthy diet and meal schedule, and check your blood glucose as often as your doctor recommends. Unpredictable insulin levels can damage your kidneys.
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