One of the main objectives of preventive health care is realizing when a body system is weak – and strengthening that system before a medical problem has a chance to establish itself. When it comes to the kidneys and their association with the cardiovascular and urinary systems, there are a few telltale signs that support is needed.
The kidneys have been called master chemists of the body. Some of their more important responsibilities include:
- monitoring blood quality by separating out harmful substances from beneficial ones
- maintaining a constant volume of water
- removing waste via the urinary system
- regulating blood pressure
Most of us don’t even think about the health of our kidneys until there is a problem. Unfortunately, when there is a detectable problem with the kidneys, it can be quite severe.
Although many types of kidney problems do not produce symptoms until late in the course of disease, some warning signs include:
- High Blood Pressure – Unless a blood pressure reading is obtained, most people are unaware that their blood pressure is elevated. However, if blood pressure is extremely high, there may be severe headache, fatigue, confusion, vision problems, chest pain, difficulty breathing and pounding in the chest, neck or ears.
- Urine Changes – Abnormal urination can indicate a range of impending kidney problems. This includes dark (concentrated), cloudy or bloody urine, as well as painful, frequent or difficult urination.
- Water Retention – Puffiness or feeling swollen around the eyes, hands or feet could indicate the kidneys are having a problem eliminating fluid.
- High Blood Sugar Levels – Without a specific blood test, many don’t know when their blood sugar levels soar. However, the hallmark indications of high blood sugar include urinating a lot and being very thirsty. In addition, there may be fatigue and weight loss without a change in eating or exercising habits.
Kidneys that have sustained repeated injury could result in the development of chronic kidney disease. Over 20 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and an additional 20 million are at increased risk to develop it. Those who are especially prone, include individuals with:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- A family history of kidney disease
- Old age
- African-American, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islander descent
Luckily, preventing such kidney problems could be a matter of making several reasonable lifestyle adjustments. If signs of future kidney problems do or do not exist, most of us could benefit from consciously striving to keep our kidneys healthy. In addition to following all of your doctor’s recommendations, four effective strategies for maintaining kidney health, include:
- Do Not Smoke – Several years ago, scientists discovered that smoking worsens kidney damage in people who have medical problems that affect the kidneys (like diabetes and high blood pressure). In addition, investigators have found that smokers have poorer kidney function than non-smokers. One possible reason is that smoking causes brief increases in blood pressure every time a cigarette is smoked.
- Exercise and Eat Right – Especially important for those who have high blood sugar and/or high blood pressure, these two lifestyle aspects are crucial to protect the kidneys. Many health experts suspect that being sedentary and consuming salty, high-fat, high-sugar, chemically-laden foods are behind our nation’s outrageously high rates of hypertension and diabetes mellitus – two conditions that can easily damage the kidneys.
- Stay Hydrated – Dehydration thickens the blood, making the kidneys task of removing waste from the blood even harder. While drinking plenty of water is one way to stay hydrated, so is minimizing consumption of alcohol, coffee and soda – substances known to be dehydrating.
- Herbal Support – Especially for those who are at highest risk for kidney problems, some herbs can help maintain kidney health. Formulations such as UriCare are created specifically to support normal kidney function.
Whether your health, age or background renders you more susceptible to kidney disease or you notice some of the signs associated with kidneys operating sub-par, there are strategies to strengthen your kidneys’ health. By not smoking, exercising daily, eating well, staying hydrated and supplementing with kidney supportive herbs, it is possible to prevent the growing problem of kidney disease.