Take care of your kidneys
Posted on 10 March 2016
Integral to the healthy functioning of the human body, the kidneys’ job is to make urine by removing toxins and excess water from your blood, thereby maintaining your body’s chemical balance. They also help control blood pressure, produce red blood cells and keep bones healthy. Dr George Anderson, a nephrologist at Mediclinic Vereeniging, tells us more about these hard-working organs.
Keeping kidneys healthy
Dr Anderson offers the following advice to keep your kidneys healthy:
• Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
• Cut down on salt in your diet
• Monitor your blood pressure
• Monitor medication use – many medications can affect the kidneys, so speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about prescribed meds, and avoid excessive usage
• Moderate, regular exercise is recommended.
Warning signs of kidney disease
‘Kidney problems are very insidious,’ says Dr Anderson. ‘The problem is that once your blood urea climbs to 6 mol/L you’ve already lost 50% of kidney function – in other words, once it’s identified, you’re already behind by 50%.’
Risk factors for chronic kidney disease include:
- Kidney stones
- High cholesterol
- Use of some chronic medications
If you suffer from any of these conditions, a proactive approach is advisable through kidney function testing done with blood or urine tests. ‘Signs of kidney disease include protein or blood in one’s urine and swelling – especially around the eyes in the early morning, known as periorbital edema,’ says Dr Anderson. ‘Tiredness due to the build-up of toxins in your body and a drop in hemoglobin levels may also indicate kidney problems.’
Can you really live with only one kidney?
Once a patient goes into kidney failure or suffers from end-stage kidney disease, a life-saving kidney transplant may be needed. ‘You can survive with one kidney if it’s normal,’ explains Dr Anderson. ‘A kidney donor is left with one kidney and can live a normal life. The main risks are if they’re involved in accidents associated with renal trauma such as horse riding or car accidents.’ In such a case they would need dialysis machine or have a kidney transplant themselves.
‘The first kidney actually grows by 20% if the second kidney is removed, and its function therefore increases,’ Dr Anderson adds. ‘In a normal, healthy patient you can actually take out an entire kidney plus two thirds of the other kidney. It is possible to live normally with one third of a kidney.’