Good Health Comes From… the Kidneys?

When most people think about maintaining good health, they usually think about maintaining a certain weight or fitness level, a diet, or even quitting smoking. VitaStrength, kidney diagram - Kidney disease affects 1 in 3 Americans. Obviously, these are all very important.  But good health actually starts further inside.  And since March is not only Women’s History Month but National Kidney Month, too, we’re dispelling some common misconceptions about kidney problems and bringing these bean-shaped powerhouses front and center.

Misconception 1: Kidneys exist solely to help you pee.

Your kidneys do more than just excrete waste and produce urine; they filter 200 liters—roughly 52 gallons—of your blood every day.  They also regulate salt and potassium levels, balance all of your body’s fluids, and regulate your blood pressure.  They even produce the active form of vitamin D your body uses to absorb calcium, in addition to controlling production of your red blood cells.  To say they’re important is a remote understatement; if any one of these becomes impaired you’ll have serious problems.

Misconception 2: You have to be old to have kidney disease.

Most people who have kidney disease don’t even know they have it.  In fact, 1 in 3 Americans is at risk for kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure.  If you’re at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, you’re also at risk for kidney disease—it’s that simple.  And since we see plenty of 20-somethings every day with either (or both) of these conditions, when it comes to your kidneys, age is just a number.

Misconception 3: You have to drink alcohol to develop kidney disease.

You do not have to consume alcohol to develop kidney disease.  Most kidney disease is actually caused by diabetes or high blood pressure, and of course, the condition is further exacerbated by alcohol use.  Add to that the fact that kidneys are naturally disease-prone, and it’s easy to see why this condition is so widespread in the U.S.

It’s also important for us to really to stress the link between diabetes and kidney disease; left unchecked, diabetes will damage your kidneys and your overall health.  Few people understand exactly how diabetes ends up being fatal, but it’s the leading cause of kidney failure, and the precursor that sends most people to dialysis.  Without properly functioning kidneys, all the nasty things your body would excrete on its own continue to circulate throughout your system, causing other organs and seemingly unrelated functions to shutdown.

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So no matter who you are, kidney care is crucial.  If you think you’re at risk for the disease, follow-up with your doctor right away.  You can usually check your kidney function with a simple blood test. Don’t take your kidneys for granted!

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