By Dr. Khadijah Tijani
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located in the abdomen. Their main function is to detoxify the body by removing waste products and excess water in form of urine. They also perform other vital functions such as regulation of blood pressure and secretion of hormones like erythropoietin (responsible for red blood cells production) and vitamin D (maintaining bone health, etc).
Any insult to the kidneys could result in irreversible damage, and kidney failure is not only expensive to treat but extremely distressing to the victims and their caregivers. It is quite worrisome that almost every day I scroll down my timeline on Facebook, there is always one person putting up a fundraiser for themselves or someone else suffering from kidney failure.
There are some causes of kidney injury that can neither be predicted nor prevented (such as acute haemorrhage, burns, congenital disorders, etc). But there are also some preventable causes that we should be aware of and guard against. When it comes to kidney health, prevention is definitely better than cure. Here are 7 simple tips on how to maintain healthy kidneys…
1. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Apart from regulating the amount of water in the body, the kidney itself depends on adequate water (and blood) supply. Dehydration puts a strain on the kidneys and if this reaches a certain threshold, the kidneys begin to shut down. Dehydration also predisposes you to develop kidney stones, which can damage your kidneys by obstructing the pathway of urine flow. Aim for 3 litres of water daily. You may need more or less depending on the weather and your activity level.
2. DO REGULAR HEALTH CHECKS
There are certain medical conditions that “kill” the kidneys slowly. These diseases are silent killers in the sense that they are often not manifested by clear signs and symptoms until they have damaged the kidneys and other vital organs to a considerable extent. Chief among these diseases are HYPERTENSION and DIABETES. Checking your blood pressure and sugar levels periodically will ensure early detection and quick intervention.
3. EAT RIGHT
The importance of a healthy diet cannot be overemphasized. Avoid junk snacks and sugary drinks. Take a balanced proportion of every class of food but pay attention to more fruits and vegetables. Clean and healthy foods protect your kidneys from excess toxic wastes, therefore the more healthy food you ingest, the better.
4. STOP DRUG ABUSE
The kidneys are actively involved in the metabolism of many drugs. When you take medications (either orthodox or herbal concoctions) indiscriminately, you are exposing your kidneys to more workload than they can handle. Also, some drugs are inherently toxic to the kidneys, so if you have a history of kidney disease, your doctor will help you adjust the dose or change to a less toxic alternative.
5. STOP SMOKING AND ALCOHOL
Cigarette smoking and alcohol ingestion have direct effects on the kidneys because these products increase the amount of toxins that your kidneys need to deal with. Hence, it is clear that avoiding them will be beneficial to the kidneys and the entire body.
6. DON’T TAKE ANY DISEASE FOR GRANTED
Whenever you fall ill, contact your doctor and get treated as soon as possible. Simple infections can become complicated if ignored or poorly managed. For example, malaria is a known cause of kidney failure. When infected red blood cells are broken down in large numbers, they produce a high concentration of toxic substances which can damage the kidneys if proper treatment is not sought.
7. MANAGE CHRONIC HEALTH ISSUES
Some chronic illnesses pose a great threat to the kidneys. Examples are diabetes, hypertension, sickle cell disease, cancer, etc. Because of the vital role of the kidneys in maintaining a healthy body, they are easily affected by any deviation from the norm. Hence, individuals who have any of these diseases should take extra care by managing their conditions well and doing regular “kidney function tests” to ascertain how healthy the kidney is and detect early signs of kidney failure.
To sum up, early signs of kidney disease may not be easily recognized by people, so, it is extremely important to take precautions against the preventable causes and seek prompt treatment for any medical condition that may result in irreversible kidney damage.
Dr. Khadijah Tijani