Take five for your kidneys during National Kidney Month


— March is National Kidney Month and the National Kidney Foundation is calling on all Americans to take five healthy steps for their kidneys.

The kidneys are the body’s chemical factories, filtering waste and performing vital functions that control things like red blood cell production and blood pressure. But over time, the kidneys can become damaged with little or no physical symptoms to warn you that your kidneys are in trouble.

“Kidney disease is much more common than you may think. If you have diabetes, hypertension or a family history of kidney disease, you may be one of the 26 million American adults that have chronic kidney disease,” said Dr. Sumeska Thavarajah, an assistant professor, Department of Nephrology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and chair of the Medical Advisory Board for the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.

“Getting routine testing if you are at risk for kidney disease, eating a diet that is low in fat, sodium and sugar, and avoiding chronic use of medications like NSAIDs are all things you can do to help manage your risk of kidney disease,” Dr. Thavarajah added.

All Americans can do five simple things to protect their kidneys:

  1. Get Tested! Ask your doctor for an ACR urine test or a GFR blood test annually if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, are over age 60, or have a family history of kidney failure. Get screened for free through the National Kidney Foundation’s KEEP Healthy program by visiting www.kidney.org.
  2. Reduce NSAIDs. Over the counter pain medicines, such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), may alleviate your aches and pains, but they can harm the kidneys, especially if you already have kidney disease. Reduce your regular use of NSAIDs and never go over the recommended dosage.
  3. Cut the Processed Foods. Processed foods can be significant sources of sodium, nitrates and phosphates, and have been linked to cancer, heart disease and kidney disease. Try adopting the DASH diet to guide your healthy eating habits.
  4. Exercise Regularly. Your kidneys like it when you exercise. Regular exercise will keep your bones, muscles, blood vessels, heart and kidneys healthy. Getting active for at least 30 minutes a day can also help you control blood pressure and lower blood sugar, which is vital to kidney health.
  5. Stay Well Hydrated. Staying well hydrated helps your kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body. Drinking plenty of water, and avoiding sugary beverages, is also one of the best ways to avoid painful kidney stones. Those with kidney problems or kidney failure may need to restrict their fluid intake, but for most people, drinking 1.5 to 2 liters (3 to 4 pints) of water per day is a healthy target.

For National Kidney Month and throughout the year, the National Kidney Foundation is offering free kidney health screenings. To locate a screening near you, or to learn more about the kidneys and risk factors for kidney disease, visit www.kidneymd.org.

The National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, serving central and western Maryland, the Delmarva Peninsula and portions of West Virginia, is the area’s only voluntary health agency dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of kidney and urinary tract diseases. For more information, visit www.kidneymd.org.