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Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease (CKD), and millions more are at risk. Kidney disease, in which the kidney fails to eliminate wastes from the body, is extremely serious, since it can lead to failure of this vital organ.

The National Institutes of Health calls kidney disease a “silent” condition, because symptoms don’t often become obvious until the illness is in an advanced stage. Most often, the presence of kidney disease is found through a blood test. Nonetheless, there may be some warning signs.

The NKF lists the following symptoms:

*Fatigue

*Trouble concentrating

*Poor appetite

*Poor sleep

*Nighttime muscle cramping

*Swollen feet and ankles

*Puffiness around the eyes, especially in the morning

*Dry, itchy skin

*An increased need to urinate, especially at night

How can you protect yourself? The SeniorHealth division of the NIH has some suggestions:

Get tested. The NKD suggests tests that can determine whether you have the illness. They are a urinalysis and a test to determine glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The GFR test evaluates how you’re your kidneys are excreting waste from your blood.

Watch your diet.  Along with myriad other health benefits, eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods can help.

Cut back on salt. There’s some debate on whether the allowance for salt should be 1,500 or 2,300 mg per day. But one thing’s for sure: most of us are consuming too much of it. Look at nutrition labels and bypass salt in favor of spices

Limit alcohol intake. Too much drinking can raise blood pressure, and hypertension is a top risk factor for CKD.

Exercise. Like a good diet, exercise has dozens of health benefits. It can give you more energy and may control blood pressure.

Lose weight. Weight is often a factor in diabetes, and diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney disease.

Work with your doctor. Take medicines on the prescribed schedule, see your doctor regularly, and check on what level of activity is right for you.

Keep your cholesterol levels in the target range.

If you smoke, quit. For free help and support, visit smokefree.gov.

For more information, visit NIH SeniorHealth; click here. You can also visit the National Kidney Foundation’s website; click here

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