What you should know during National Kidney Month

Every March National Kidney Month reminds us to be grateful for all the work our kidneys do and to take action to avoid or cope with kidney disease. On March 12, 2020, people around the globe will join in observance of World Kidney Day.

Kidneys play an active role in our overall health. They filter the waste and balance the minerals in our blood, keep bones healthy, regulate blood pressure and make red blood cells.

Chronic kidney disease affects 850 million people worldwide and is the 11th leading cause of death globally. It is usually permanent and gets worse over time, but people generally do not feel sick until it is far advanced.

Since chronic kidney disease often shows no symptoms, 9 in 10 adults who have it do not know they do. If the disease progresses to chronic kidney failure, the only way to stay alive is to get regular dialysis in a clinic or at home, or to get a kidney transplant. So it’s vital to care for your kidneys even if you feel OK.

Who’s at risk?
People with diabetes or high blood pressure have the highest risk. Two out of three people on dialysis at Northwest Kidney Centers have kidney failure caused by either diabetes or high blood pressure.

Who else is at risk?
• Those who have a relative with kidney disease.
• Those of African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American or Hispanic descent.
• Those who are overweight.
• Those over the age of 60.

If you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor about getting tested. Kidney tests are simple, quick and inexpensive.

You can avoid or slow down kidney disease
No matter your physical condition, diet and activity level are key to kidney health. Specific recommendations:
• Reduce your salt intake. Eat more natural foods and fewer packaged or prepared ones, which are preserved with lots of sodium (salt). Explore the hundreds of kidney-friendly recipes on our website.
• Get more exercise —30 minutes five times a week. Being physically active can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, contributes to weight loss and condition your heart.
• Don’t overuse over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin. They’re hard on the kidneys.

Learn more about kidney disease prevention.