Everything You Need to Know About Your Kidney Health

Your kidneys play an essential role in keeping you healthy. They work non-stop to filter your blood, removing waste and excess fluids that your body doesn’t need. During the filtering process, waste is diverted to your bladder through your ureter where it is later eliminated as urine. Out of the approximate 190 liters of blood your kidneys filter per day, about one to two liters is eliminated as urine in this way. The remainder of the newly cleaned blood moves from your kidneys back into your veins.

What is kidney disease?

Kidney disease can have several different causes. However, each results in damage to the kidney filtering system. When this happens, your kidneys are not able to properly filter your blood. Subsequently, they can’t effectively remove waste from your bloodstream.

What are the causes of kidney disease?

Two of the most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. In the case of diabetes, kidneys endure damage from an excess of glucose in your blood stream. Over time, your kidneys are not able to effectively keep up with the amount of glucose they need to filter. As a result of this, their ability to function becomes more and more limited.

If you have high blood pressure, blood vessels in and around your kidneys can become damaged. This also impedes their ability to effectively filter blood.

Some of the other causes of kidney disease include infections, genetic disorders, injury to the kidneys, kidney stones, and cysts.

What are the symptoms of kidney disease?

The majority of people who develop kidney disease have no symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to get tested on a regular basis to monitor your kidney health. Usually, symptoms do not make themselves known until kidney disease is very advanced, or until kidney failure. Some of the symptoms of advanced kidney disease and kidney failure include fluid retention and decreased urine output. This is because your kidneys are no longer able to filter waste as urine. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, and weakness. Advanced kidney disease or kidney failure requires immediate medical attention as they can quickly turn fatal. If you have concern about your kidney health, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as you can.

Am I at risk for kidney disease?

Kidney disease is unfortunately quite common, with one in three adults in the US at risk of developing it. The highest risk factors for developing kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition to these, a family history of kidney disease and age are also risk factors. For age, being over the age of 60 puts you more at risk for developing kidney disease. If you have more than one of these risk factors, it’s important to get tested on a regular basis to see if you have any indications of kidney disease. Your doctor can help monitor your kidney health along with your other regular testing.

What tests do you take to check for kidney disease?

There are two main tests to diagnose and measure kidney disease. The first, GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate) is a blood test. This test checks for any creatinine deposits in your blood, which your kidneys would normally filter out as waste. Creatinine is a waste material that comes from your muscle tissue. If creatinine is present, this is an indication of kidney disease. To further determine how damaged your kidneys may be, your doctor will look at the amount of creatinine. This is compared with your body size, age, and gender. The result is your Glomerular Filtration Rate.

The other, the ACR test (Albumen to Creatinine ratio) is a urine test. Unlike your blood, it’s normal for your urine to contain creatinine. This amount is used as a benchmark to compare to any amounts of albumin that may be present. Albumen is a different type of protein which does not normally show up in your urine, unless your kidneys are not properly functioning.

The stages of kidney disease.

As a standard measurement of kidney disease and kidney function, medical professionals use different stages to describe your kidney health. They use the benchmarks below. The filtration rate is determined by the GFR test, which measures how well your kidneys are working for your body.

Stage One: 90%-100% filtration rate. Some kidney damage, but normal kidney function.
Stage Two: 60%-89% filtration rate. A mild loss of kidney function.
Stage Three (a): 45%-59% filtration rate. A mild to moderate loss of kidney function.
Stage Three (b): 30%-44% filtration rate. A moderate to severe loss of kidney function.
Stage Four: 15%-29% filtration rate. A severe loss of kidney function.
Stage Five: Less that 15% filtration rate. This stage reflects kidney failure. 

Ways to improve your kidney health

Monitor your kidney health. Especially if you have risk factors related to kidney disease, it’s important to get regular tests. If you doctor is able to catch kidney disease early, it’s much easier to treat you and prevent any serious kidney damage. Your doctor can recommend the best course of action for your overall health, as well as your kidney health.

Change your diet to support your kidney health. If you have kidney disease, it’s a good idea to work with your doctor and a dietician to decide on what diet would best support your health. Below are some common dietary suggestions for people living with kidney disease. Make sure you speak to a professional to determine what might work best for your specific health needs.

Dietary changes to support your kidney health

Many people living with kidney disease improve their health by reducing their sodium or salt intake. This is because reducing your sodium intake also helps reduce your blood pressure. Having high blood pressure can cause and continue to exasperate kidney disease.

Ensuring your diet is supporting your heart health another important factor if you have kidney disease. A heart healthy diet will limit the amount of fat in your kidneys, blood vessels, and heart. Read more about how plant-based eating can help your heart health.

It’s also important to make sure you’re not eating too much protein. Since your kidneys need to work to filter excess protein from your blood, eating too much can cause a strain on their functioning.

The bottom line.

Catching kidney disease early is important for being able to effectively manage and treat your kidney disease. With over 3,500 diagnostic tests available, Your Health Lab lets you stay on top of your kidney health. Talk to your doctor to find out which tests are right for you.

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