Why Care About Kidneys?

Kidneys are key to keeping blood healthy and screening can help assure they are in working order

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) March is National Kidney Month, and the National Kidney Foundation is urging all individuals to think about their kidney health.

Healthy kidneys help control blood pressure, as well as prevent diabetes problems and bone loss. However, many people don’t realize they have chronic kidney disease until it has advanced.

Early diagnosis is key for controlling the disease, but blood and urine tests are the only ways to tell if you have it.

Take time to see if your kidneys are in shape, and follow some suggestions for maintaining strong kidney health.

"If you have risk factors, get tested."

The American Kidney Fund says to think of your kidneys as a pasta strainer. These fist-sized organs filter out wastes and excess water from the blood.

Every day, a person's kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to sift out about two quarts of waste products and extra water, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC). The waste and extra water become urine, which is stored in the bladder.

If the kidneys aren’t operating correctly, waste build up in the blood and damage the body.

Chronic kidney disease can cause high blood pressure, anemia (low blood count), weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage, according to The National Kidney Foundation. Also, kidney disease increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease.

Because kidney damage is hard to spot, the National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP) recommends that you get tested for kidney disease if you have key risk factors, which include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a family history of kidney failure.

Two tests are needed to check for kidney disease.

  1. A blood test to check your GFR or glomerular filtration rate. This tells how well your kidneys are filtering.
  2. A urine test to check for albumin in your urine. Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.

It is also important to have your blood pressure checked. High blood pressure can be a sign of kidney disease. 

The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help delay or prevent kidney failure.

Even if you have none of the key risk factors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips for keeping your kidneys healthy:

Keep blood pressure below 130/80 mm/hg.

  • Stay in your target cholesterol range.
  • Eat less salt and salt substitutes.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Take your medications as prescribed. NKDEP also suggests checking your prescriptions for any that might harm your kidneys.

If you have diabetes, take these steps too:

  • Meet blood sugar targets as often as you can
  • Have an HbA1C test at least twice a year, but ideally up to four times a year. An HbA1C test measures the average level of blood sugar over the past three months.

If your blood pressure is high, check it regularly and get it under control to make sure your kidneys remain healthy.

For more information, visit the National Kidney Disease Education Program's website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 18, 2013
Last Updated:
March 20, 2013