National Kidney Month is celebrated in March each year to bring attention to two of our closest companions – and, possibly, our most overlooked. As the organs charged with recycling fresh blood for every use in the body, our kidneys are the focus of the body’s most concentrated blood supply, cleansing our blood of natural wastes and helping to regulate blood pressure, balance electrolytes, and produce red blood cells. The kidneys get nearly a quarter of the heart’s output – almost 1200 ml per minute – and what they do with it makes life possible.
Reasons to raise awareness of this vital job are abundant, because chronic kidney disease causes 2.4 million deaths a year worldwide. It’s the sixth fastest-growing cause of death, and when the kidneys aren’t working properly, it can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and vulnerability to infections such as hepatitis.
Know Your Risks
Diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of kidney disease – or just being 60 or older – all are risk factors for kidney disease, even kidney failure. Diabetes can cause the filters of the kidneys – the glomeruli – to fail. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, and almost half of people starting dialysis were sent there by the effects of high blood sugar.
Because the kidneys are so richly supplied with blood vessels, increased pressure on those high volumes of blood can cause weakening, narrowing, or hardening of the blood vessels supplying the kidneys. And so, High blood pressure, too, threatens our kidneys directly. Because the capillaries that supply the kidneys themselves include some of the smallest blood vessels in the body, the extra pressure places enormous strain right where the kidneys do their job.
Obesity is a contributing factor to more than one of the conditions that damage the healthy function of your kidneys. So here we have it, three of the top threats to kidney health – diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity – are on a steep rise throughout the American population.
Get Active with Prevention
The American Kidney Fund offers an excellent summary of prevention techniques that are within the reach of all of us, including healthy eating, exercise, limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco, and working with your doctor.
A family physician can become familiar with your specific risk factors and recommend the healthy choices that can guide your whole family. If more active prevention or treatment is called for, then your family physician is in the best position possible to provide the expert care that’s called for. So why not schedule an appointment with us at Global Family Medicine to talk about how to guard your kidneys’ vital function? Call us at 843-815-6468.