5 kidney health tips for National Kidney Month

One of the most important health advocacy months of the year arrives in March, National Kidney Month, an effort to remind Americans of the indispensable role their kidneys play in their overall health. The kidneys filter up to 120 to 150 quarts of blood each day to remove wastes and extra fluids, which are then converted to 1 to 2 quarts of urine. These organs assist in maintaining electrolyte levels in the body, as well as creating hormones that assist in regulating blood pressure, creating red blood cells and contributing to bone health.

The state of your kidneys is a prime indicator of your overall health, and March is the perfect time to take steps to promote kidney wellness and support your body's normal physiological functions. Here are health and lifestyle tips that can promote an improved state of well-being that will have a tangible effect on your long-term kidney health.

Regularly schedule kidney screenings

If you have hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or a family history of kidney issues, kidney dysfunction is far more likely, so it's wise to regularly screen your kidneys for any irregularities. There are two simple kidney screening tests, urine and blood tests, which test for specific proteins and waste products that are indicative of poor kidney function. If they are detected, you can take steps to slow or stop these kidney issues from getting worse.

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Quit Smoking

There's a seemingly never-ending list of reasons why you should quit smoking, but smoking also has a detrimental effect on the kidneys. Smoking regularly can damage the body's blood vessels, which can inhibit blood flow, which kidneys require to work at optimal levels. Smoking also raises your risk of kidney and other cancers, so quitting could be one of the best decisions you'll ever make!

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Supplement with vitamin D

One of the most important jobs of the kidneys is to activate vitamin D in the body, and various studies have found that low vitamin D levels could be indicative of an individual's increased risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Vitamin D is especially valuable for its ability to help the body absorb calcium, which promotes healthy bone growth.

Absorbing vitamin D through the skin via sunlight is the easiest method of building vitamin D levels (for short amounts of time!), but it can also be found in dietary sources, including oily fish (salmon, swordfish, trout, etc), portobello mushrooms, eggs and fortified cereal and milk products.

Stay hydrated

Regular consumption of water has a potentially protective effect on kidney function, as diluting the urine can enhance kidney function. Being dehydrated will increase the amount of sodium and minerals which can lead to painful kidney stones, but drinking an adequate amount of fluids each day can decrease this likelihood. Aim to drink between 6-8 glasses of water each day to support the kidneys and many more physiological functions.

Curb alcohol consumption

The kidneys' main function of filtering out harmful substances in the blood is put to the test each time you ingest alcohol. Drinking alcohol can make it more difficult for the kidneys to filter out wastes and toxins from the body, as alcohol dehydrates the body and can affect the normal function of the organs.

Additionally, long-term regular alcohol ingestion can raise blood pressure and cause liver disease, which can place undue stress on the kidneys. A good guideline to keep in mind is never exceed one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men for healthy moderation.

Before the March 15 FSA grace period deadline, make sure you make the most of your FSA!

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