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Honoring National Kidney Month this March

Patient with renal impairment affecting one kidney

March is National Kidney Month, so that means that it is time to raise awareness about kidney disease and how you can keep your kidneys healthy! During 2011, kidney disease was the ninth leading cause of death in the United States. Incredibly, there are more than 20 million adults in the U.S. that actually have chronic kidney disease (CKD), and yet most of these people have no idea that their kidneys are in jeopardy. When left untreated, chronic kidney disease can eventually cause complete kidney failure. In those circumstances, a patient’s only hope for survival is transplantation or dialysis.

Think About Your Kidneys this National Kidney Month

Throughout the month of March, organizations like the National Kidney Foundation are urging every American to take the time to consider their kidney health. So, if you have never gone in to have your kidneys checked, then this would be the perfect time to schedule an appointment. Estimates have shown that the number of global deaths due to kidney disease has been on the rise over the last 20 years, but this is a risk that you can cut out of your life by taking some preemptive steps during National Kidney Month 2013.

Why are the Kidneys so Important?

Your kidneys are two organs, which are roughly the size of a fist, located in your lower back. They are responsible for performing a number of functions which are essential to maintaining your overall health:

  • Kidneys help regulate blood pressure with the release of hormones
  • Kidneys help control the production of red blood cells
  • Every day, the kidneys filter out waste from 200 liters of blood
  • Regulate the potassium, salt and acid content in the body
  • Removes drugs from the body
  • Balances the level of fluids within the body
  • They produce an active form of vitamin D which is essential for healthier bones

The Risk of Kidney Disease in the United States

Did you know that kidney disease is currently the ninth leading cause of death in the United States? Unfortunately, renal impairment research has shown that the kidneys are more prone to disease. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 1 in every 3 Americans is at risk for developing kidney disease due to hypertension, diabetes, or a family history of CKD. There are already almost 30 million people who have this disease, and most of them are not even aware that they are ill. Many cases of chronic kidney disease can go undiagnosed due to the lack of noticeable symptoms during the earlier stages.

The Importance of Early Detection and Screening

Since there are usually no symptoms associated with early stage kidney disease, laboratory tests and screening are essential. During one of these screenings, lab techs will take some blood to have it tested for creatinine, a waste product. If the levels of creatinine are high, then this would be a signal of abnormal kidney function. This test will also allow technicians to calculate the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), an indication of the current stage of CKD. Taken together, these results can provide an overall evaluation of the patient’s kidney function.

What Can You Do if You Have CKD?

The best way to prevent or at least delay complete kidney failure is through the early detection of chronic kidney disease. Also, it is important to properly treat any underlying medical conditions (like diabetes and high blood pressure) in order to prevent additional damage to the kidneys. Then, you can work to improve the health of your kidneys by making sure that you get the right amount of sodium, fluids, and protein in your diet. Plus, health care experts recommend getting regular exercise and staying well hydrated.

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