While most of us don’t give them much thought, we can’t survive without our kidneys. Their main job is to remove waste from the blood and return the cleaned blood back to the body. They can do this due to the tiny filtering units they contain called nephrons. Each kidney contains about one million nephrons and together they filter and clean about a litre of blood every minute. Blood passes through the nephrons where fluid and waste products are filtered out – much of this fluid is returned to the blood while the waste products are concentrated in any extra fluid and removed from the body as urine. When the kidneys are damaged, waste products can no longer be removed from the body so they build up and become toxic.
According to Kidney Health Australia, one in three Australians is at risk of developing kidney disease. Yet most of us don’t do anything to protect them and by the time we have symptoms it’s already too late. The good news is that a few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way towards reducing your risk.
How to keep your kidneys healthy
- Exercise regularly – to help with weight control and managing blood pressure and blood glucose levels
- Eat a healthy diet based around plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, moderate amounts of lean protein foods and only small amounts of foods high in fat, sugar and salt
- Don’t smoke
- Drink plenty of water and limit your intake of sugary drinks
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation –no more than 2 standard drinks per day
- Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are major risk factors for kidney disease
- Keep your blood pressure in check – this means a blood pressure reading below 130/90
- Maintain a normal cholesterol level – under 5.5mmol/L
- Keep blood glucose levels well controlled if you have diabetes
Are you at risk?
You have a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have high blood pressure
- Are overweight or obese
- Are over 50 years of age
- Have a family history of kidney disease
- Are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
Did you know? Each day our kidneys filter 200 litres of blood and remove about 2 litres of waste products and unneeded water.
For more information about kidney health: Phone the Kidney Health Information Service on 1800 454 363 or visit www.kidney.org.au