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Kidney Health: It’s Worth More than a Hill of Beans

By Martha Michael

Kidney Health

Working without notice, kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs situated at the back of your body and frequently kept in the back of your mind. But like the underestimated value of the beans that Jack bought before his fabled trip up the beanstalk, their effect on your health can have giant implications.

What Are Kidneys?

Your kidneys, ureters, and bladder make up your urinary tract, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, or NIDDK. The kidneys are located on each side of your spine and act as a filtering system that removes waste and extra water from your blood. The urine that’s created travels through tubes called ureters and is stored in your bladder.

Kidneys filter about a half-cup of blood per minute. They remove waste and regulate an acid produced by your cells which contributes to maintaining the balance of water, salts, and minerals, including:

  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Sodium

Healthy kidneys also produce a necessary level of hormones that contribute to:

  • Making red blood cells
  • Controlling blood pressure
  • Maintaining strong bones

Your renal artery brings blood to the kidneys, which are made up of nearly a million nephrons, or filtering units, that remove waste and return nutrients to your blood vessels. About 150 quarts of blood flow through your kidneys daily and produce 1 to 2 quarts of urine.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Only 10 percent of the 37 million Americans with kidney disease are aware they have it, according to an article by the National Kidney Foundation. Many times symptoms of kidney disease are misdiagnosed; they are attributed to other conditions until stages that are too late for successful treatment.

To be sure you have kidney disease you must be tested, but there are some preliminary signs your kidneys are not functioning properly.

Low energy - When toxins build up in your bloodstream due to poor kidney function, most people begin to experience weakness and fatigue.

Poor sleep patterns - Also the result of toxins in your blood, people with kidney disease are more susceptible to sleep apnea.

Frequent urination - When there’s damage to the filtering system in your kidneys there’s an increase in your urge to urinate, especially at night.

Blood or foam in your urine - When your kidneys don’t filter properly, blood cells can leak into the urine; foam in the urine indicates high levels of protein.

Muscle cramps - When kidney function is compromised, your body’s electrolytes are imbalanced, which can result in muscle cramping.

Puffy under the eyes - A sign of kidney damage, excess protein in the urine can cause the area around your eyes to get puffy.

Dry skin - People with advanced kidney disease can get itchy skin due to an imbalance of minerals and nutrients in their blood.

Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

Having healthy, functioning kidneys shouldn’t be left to chance. You can adopt a number of habits that contribute to kidney health, according to an article on the Cleveland Clinic website.

Stay adequately hydrated - Drink more water than the typically recommended amount of four to six glasses per day, but not much more. Over-hydration has not proven effective in maintaining healthy functioning kidneys.

Eat healthy - Because kidney problems often stem from health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, your eating habits have an effect on kidney function. Control your weight and keep your blood pressure in check with a healthy diet.

Quit smoking -There are many negative effects of smoking and vaping, which can include a decreased flow of blood to the kidneys and damage to the blood vessels. Tobacco products are toxic, nicotine is addictive, and vaping solutions contain chemicals that can be harmful to your health.

Exercise - Maintaining an active lifestyle that includes regular exercise will contribute to your health in myriad ways. In addition to keeping your blood pressure and weight at lower levels, being in good condition gives your kidneys the best chance of working properly.

Though stories are rarely told about kidneys and their value to your body’s urinary system, they play an important role in healthy function. When you take into account their importance in filtering waste and returning nutrients to your bloodstream, making kidney health a priority is like protecting the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs.

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