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March is National Kidney Awareness month – a good time to focus on taking care of your kidneys.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on how some medical conditions – such as chronic kidney disease, a serious condition affecting 37 million people – can put a person at greater risk for severe complications from illnesses, including coronavirus.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help you protect your kidneys. Here are four things from Intermountain Healthcare that you need to know about kidney health this month.
Kidney disease is silent
Kidney disease doesn't announce itself like a heart attack. One in seven adults in the U.S. has some level of kidney disease, but sadly, only one in ten people with kidney disease are even aware they have the condition.
This creates a significant health risk because patients aren't getting the care they need. There are steps individuals can take to help slow the progression of kidney disease. By the time symptoms become apparent, the damage is often irreversible.
A quick way to evaluate your risk for kidney disease is to take the quiz at www.MinuteforyourKidneys.org.
Declining kidney function can create more problems
Kidneys affect the function of other organs such as your heart and lungs. Uncontrolled diabetes, which is the leading cause of kidney disease, can lead to blindness, poor circulation, loss of limbs, and kidney failure. This results in the need for renal replacement therapies such as a kidney transplant or dialysis treatments.
If kidney disease progression is prevented or slowed, a patient can enjoy better health and lower healthcare costs.
"Kidneys play an extremely important role in our bodies. They clean our blood by filtering out waste products and maintaining a normal fluid and electrolyte balance. Waste products and excess fluid are removed from our bodies in the form of urine. Our kidneys also secrete important hormones that help regulate blood pressure, stimulate red blood cell production and promote strong, healthy bones," said Chenlee Condie, RN, Intermountain Healthcare Kidney Services nurse manager.
Know your risks
You may be at risk for developing chronic kidney disease if you have diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or a family history of kidney disease. Additionally, if you are a part of certain ethnic groups, obese, or take medications that can be harmful to kidneys such as ibuprofen and naproxen, you are at an increased risk of developing kidney disease.
Screenings save lives
"Having an awareness of your risk factors is the first step, then talking to your doctor about regular screenings is the second. A simple blood and urine test can reveal how well your kidneys are functioning, and if additional action is needed. Prevention is always the best and easiest medicine," said Condie.
It's important to know that having kidney disease does not mean you will always progress to kidney failure. That's why awareness, screening and treatment are vital. There are many steps you can take to maintain or even improve kidney function. Talk to your doctor if you are at risk for kidney disease or to learn more about your kidney health.
You can learn more about kidney disease and treatment at https://intermountainhealthcare.org/kidney.