The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are located just below the rib cage, one on each side of your spine.
Things that kidneys do:
1. Filters waste, toxin and regulate fluid balance in the body.
2. Through fluid regulation and hormone release, the kidneys play major role in controlling blood pressure.
3. Activate vitamin D to maintain strong bones.
4. Release hormone that helps in the production of red blood cell.
5. Maintain healthy balance of salts and minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium and phosphate.
How do kidneys work?
Each of your kidneys is made up of about a million filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron includes a filter, called the glomerulus, and a tubule. The nephrons work through a two-step process: the glomerulus filters your blood, and the tubule returns needed substances to your blood and removes wastes.
Risk factors that can damage kidney:
1. Reduce salt intake. This can be achieved by simple changes, such as consuming less processed foods, avoid additional condiments during meals and consider changing to a non-effervescent (dissolvable) vitamin supplement, as these can contain up to 1g of salt per tablet. Excessive salt has shown to cause high blood pressure, retain fluids, increase amount of protein in urine, increase risk of kidney stone formation. And all this put strains on kidneys which eventually causes kidney damage.
2. Control blood pressure. As kidneys are made of tiny blood vessels, prolong and uncontrolled high blood pressure will cause irreversible damage to the blood vessel and leads to kidney damage. If the increased blood pressure cannot be brought down through natural means such as weight loss, reduce salt intake, reduce alcohol intake or stress reduction, then blood pressure medication is necessary to preserve the kidney health.
3. Control blood sugar. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the kidney and destroy the kidney’s filters. When the blood vessels in the kidneys are injured, the kidneys cannot clean the blood properly, resulting in more water and salt being retained and waste materials building up in the blood.
4. Prolong use of NSAIDs, a type of painkiller, such as ibuprofen and diclofenac. Prolong use of this type of painkiller disrupts the regulatory hormone produced by the kidney and alters the blood flow within the kidney which may damage the kidney. The risk is higher among older individuals who has suboptimal kidneys due to old age and individuals who has impaired kidney health to begin with.
5. Kidney stones can damage kidneys by blocking the flow of urine, mechanical injury and infection. Common causes of kidney stones are: not drinking enough water, diets high in protein, salt and sugar, obesity, digestive disease or gastric surgery, high uric acid (gout), use of diuretics (water losing pills), urinary tract infection cause by urease producing bacteria and genetics. Individuals who have kidney stones should see a urologist to investigate potential underlying cause.
6. Kidney infection. Chronic urinary tract infection may lead to ascending infection which eventually would reach the kidneys. Any infection in the blood may also reach the kidneys and cause damage to the kidneys.
3 simple kidney-saving tests:
1. Routine blood pressure (BP test) monitoring. And try to keep BP below 140/90 is good for most people. Below 130/80 is better if you have chronic kidney disease. Below 120/80 is considered best.
2. Check presence of protein in urine (urine test). Significant amount of protein in urine may be an early sign of kidney disease.
3. Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) (blood test). This measures how well the kidneys are filtering the blood.
(Source: Raffles Medical Group)