Caring for your kidneys
Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2022
March is National Kidney Month. And based on the statistics that you’re about to read, kidney health is something to take seriously. The kidneys are a topic that is important to me for reasons beyond the stats you will read. A few years into my nursing career, I became a hemodialysis nurse. I worked both in the acute outpatient setting and the hospital-based setting, where I cared for patients who needed hemodialysis three or more times a week to survive. The experience brought me a new perspective. Rarely have I felt joy like I felt when my beeper alerted me that one of my patients would receive a life-changing gift of a donated kidney, and needed to get to the donation center STAT.
The two kidney bean-shaped organs at the back of your abdomen are your kidneys. They produce red blood cells vitamin D, filter toxins from your blood, and regulate pH. In addition, kidneys filter about half a cup of blood every hour, creating urine from the filtered waste.
Nearly 40 million Americans are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD). And ninety percent of these people are unaware that they have it. And another one in three are at risk for developing kidney disease. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, or over sixty years of age are at higher risk of developing kidney disease.
When your kidneys fail, waste builds up in the blood, leading to problems like kidney stones, infections, anemia, nerve damage, high blood pressure, stroke, and even heart attack. About 750,000 Americans require dialysis or a kidney transplant annually, and about 12 people die each day waiting on a new kidney. What’s more, chronic kidney disease is currently the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S. and is projected to be the fifth leading cause by 2040.
Dr. Bodie, Director of St. Luke’s Urology Associates, says that “kidney disease is a killer which can dramatically affect your quality of life.” He’s a firm believer in taking preventative measures to better care for your kidneys by “managing high blood pressure, making healthy food and drink choices, and reducing stress.”
Dr. Bodie encourages his patients to “be active participants with their healthcare providers to create a plan that fits their lifestyle, mobility, and dietary needs.” He stresses the importance of following the plan and taking medication as prescribed.
Key components to a healthy kidney lifestyle include physical activities that you enjoy. Go for a walk, take a bike ride, or even hike. Stay active and manage your weight. It is also a good idea to ensure that you get enough sleep and eat the right foods.
If you have CKD, you can protect your kidneys from more damage and may also improve your overall health.
Ten ways to manage kidney disease:
- Be an active participant with your healthcare provider
- Keep your blood pressure under control
- If you have diabetes, manage your blood glucose
- Actively manage your medication schedule
- Develop a healthy meal plan with a dietitian
- Incorporate a routine of physical activity
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get enough sleep
- Find ways to reduce stress and depression
- If you smoke, STOP!
Of all the precautionary measures listed above, the most important is to get your blood pressure under control. High blood pressure is a silent killer and can irreparably damage your kidneys. The blood pressure goal is less than 140/90 mm Hg for most people. To help lower your BP, try to eat low-sodium, heart-healthy foods, don’t smoke, have an active lifestyle, plenty of sleep, and take medicines as prescribed.
If you have diabetes, reaching your blood glucose goal is paramount. Check your glucose regularly throughout each day and use the results to guide food and physical activity decisions.
Your provider will also test your average blood glucose level over the past three months (A1C). The higher your A1C number, the higher your daily blood glucose levels have been. The ideal A1C goal for most people with diabetes is less than 7 percent. Reaching your A1C goal will help you protect your kidneys.
Dr. Bodie says that kidney disease tends to worsen over time. Therefore, he recommends that you have your kidney function tested regularly and compare the results to your previous test. Your goal is to keep your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) the same while lowering (or keeping the same) your urine albumin.
Warning signs that you may have kidney issues include:
- Swelling of the face, hands, abdomen, ankles, and feet
- Blood in urine or foamy urine
- Puffy eyes
- Painful urination
- Increased thirst
“Kidneys are amazing organs that do many indispensable tasks to keep us healthy,” says Dr. Bodie. “So it’s essential that you do all that you can to keep them functioning properly,” he said. The doctor encourages you to visit your healthcare provider should you have diabetes, hypertension, a family history of kidney disease, or are obese.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bodie, call (828) 894-3230.
To learn if you’re at risk of developing kidney disease, go to:
If you have a healthcare topic of interest or a question, send me a note at Michelle.Fortune@slhnc.org. Also, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or visit StLukesNC.org to learn about top-rated St. Luke’s Hospital and our new world-class services.