- World Kidney Day is a global health awareness campaign that focuses on the importance of kidneys
- Kidneys are vital organs in the body that filter the blood and help in passing waste as urine
- For better health of the kidney, drinking water and regular exercise is must
The kidneys are two organs that are located in the lower back, one on each side of the spine. They are about the size of a clenched fist. The Nephron is the functional unit of the kidney and contains a specialized structure called the glomerulus within which filtration of blood occurs. There are about a million nephrons in a kidney. The kidneys have numerous functions that are vital to your well-being. Their main functions and a description of each are listed below.
Functions of the kidney
Remove extra water: The kidneys filter extra water, which the body does not need, in the form of urine. This water comes from the liquids you drink and the foods you eat. The kidneys have the ability to concentrate or dilute your urine, as your body needs. As they form urine, it is sent to the bladder through tubes called ureters. The urethra is the tube that drains the urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
Remove waste products: Urea and creatinine are examples of waste products that are found in everyone. Urea and creatinine form as the body breaks down food into energy and performs its routine bodily functions. Waste products are harmful if not removed by the kidneys. A build-up of these toxins in the body due to kidney failure can be fatal.
Restore needed chemicals: The kidneys work to keep the body’s chemicals (electrolytes and minerals) in balance. Two examples of electrolytes are sodium and potassium. An example of a mineral would be calcium. The kidneys keep a proper balance by saving the chemicals the body needs and passing the excess chemicals into the urine.
Regulate blood pressure: The kidneys help the body keep a normal blood pressure by regulating the excretion of sodium and water. The kidneys also produce a special hormone called renin that helps to control blood pressure.
Help in the production of red blood cells:- The healthy kidney produces a hormone called erythropoietin. This hormone helps the bone marrow produce red blood cells.
Help with calcium and vitamin balance: The kidneys balance calcium, phosphate and Vitamin D in the body. These three play a key role in bone structure and formation.
Advisories for having healthy Kidneys
1. Regular exercise diminishes the risk of chronic kidney disease. It can also reduce hypertension while boosting heart health, which are both important to preventing kidney damage. One need not run marathons to achieve the reward of exercise. Walking, running, cycling, and even dancing is great for one’s health.
2. Diabetes Mellitus: This is fast becoming the most common cause of chronic kidney failure in India and all over the world. Diabetes causes blood vessel changes in the kidneys (and the whole body) over many years. A thickening and hardening of kidney arteries, glomeruli and tubules cause the kidneys to fail. However, if one can control their blood sugar, the risk of damage could be reduced. Also, if the damage is detected early, the doctor can take steps to reduce further damage. A simple Blood test (serum creatinine) and Urine test (for protein) will determine whether your kidneys are functioning normally.
3. High blood pressure can cause kidney damage. If high blood pressure occurs together with other health issues like diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol, the health impact can be significant. A healthy blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm of Hg. Lifestyle and dietary changes may help lower one’s blood pressure. If the blood pressure readings are consistently high, a diagnosis of high blood pressure is made. Hence, it is highly recommended for such people to consult a doctor about monitoring blood pressure regularly while making changes to their daily lifestyle.
4. Obese people are at a higher risk of multiple health complications that are harmful to the kidneys. These include diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. A healthy diet may help reduce the risk of kidney damage. Focussing on eating fresh ingredients (that are naturally low-sodium, such as cauliflower, blueberries, fish, whole grains, and more) rather than canned food and reducing carbohydrate intake, can go a long way in reducing or preventing the occurrence of these diseases.
5. There’s no miracle behind the golden advice to drink eight glasses of water a day, but it’s an ideal routine as it encourages you to stay hydrated. This is especially true for tropical weather with its hot summers and for those toiling under the sun. One should aim for at least 1.5 to 2 litres in a day. Other factors like climate, exercise, gender, overall health, and whether or not you’re pregnant or breastfeeding are important to consider when planning your daily water intake. People who have previously had kidney stones should drink at least 3L of water a day to help prevent stone deposits in the future.
6. Smoking damages the body’s blood vessels. This leads to slower blood flow throughout the body and to your kidneys as well. Smoking also puts your kidneys at an increased risk for cancer. If you stop smoking, your risk will reduce. However, it will take some time to return to the risk level of a person who’s never smoked.
(The author is Dr Arvind Conjeevaram, Senior Consultant Nephrologist and Transplant Physician, The Bangalore, Sagar & Trustwell Hospitals, Bangalore)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV)