Your small but mighty fist-sized kidneys do amazing work every single day. Every 30 minutes your kidneys filter every drop of blood (about 120 to 150 quarts), eliminate waste, regulate fluid levels and blood pressure, support bone health, and promote red blood cell production. They never take a break.
That’s why protecting kidney health is vital to your overall health. Yet about 33% of adults in the United States (1 in 3 people) are at risk for kidney disease. Unfortunately, since good kidney functioning is often taken for granted, kidney disease often goes undetected until it has become advanced to the point of possibly needing dialysis or a transplant.
Ideally, catching kidney disease before it starts or at the earliest stage possible, is critical to avoid poor health, costly medical expenses, and reduced quality of life. There are three things you need to know to avoid this scenario:
Assess your risk
The first step to a healthier life and good kidney functioning is to understand your personal risk for developing kidney disease. The more risk factors you have, the greater likelihood of developing kidney disease. The main risk factors you need to know to include the following:
- Having diabetes or a family history of this disease
- Having high blood pressure or a family history of it
- Having heart disease or a family history of it
- Having a family history of kidney failure, diabetes, or high blood pressure
- Carrying excess body weight or being obese
- Being age 60 or older
- Having been born with a low birth weight (weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces)
- Prolonged use of NSAIDS, a type of pain killer which includes ibuprofen and naproxen
- Chronic urinary tract infections
- Having had kidney stones
Part of the problem with early-stage kidney disease is that are no symptoms. Yet early detection is critical to slowing the progression of this disease. When you do notice symptoms indicative of kidney disease, by then, the disease will be more advanced. Here are symptoms to be aware of:
- Fatigue, weakness
- Difficult or painful urination
- Foamy urine
- Pink or dark urine indicating blood in urine
- Increased thirst
- Increased need to urinate, especially at night
- Puffy eyes
- Swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, or feet
Tests you need to diagnosis kidney disease
If you have several risk factors and/or symptoms of kidney disease, it’s imperative to ask your primary care physician about getting tested for this condition. It’s a good idea to be tested yearly to help assess the progression if you have kidney disease in order to be able to manage it better. Many people can have kidney disease that does not progress to the point of needing dialysis or a kidney transplant. But the key is being tested as needed and discussing with the doctor steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy.
The tests your doctor may want to use include the following:
- Blood pressure. Knowing your blood pressure is a must. That’s because high blood pressure damages small blood vessels (glomeruli) in the kidneys and is the second leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes. Good blood pressure should be below 140/90 but if you already have kidney disease, then below 130/80 is better. The best blood pressure to have is below 120/80.
- Protein in the urine (Urine test). An early sign of kidney disease is having trace amounts of a protein called albumin also known as albuminuria. If you are having regular amounts of albumin and other proteins in the urine which is called proteinuria, this indicates damage to the kidneys. A good score is less than 30 mg of albumin per gram of urinary creatinine, which is a normal waste product.
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR). This blood test measures how well the kidneys are filtering blood. To find the GFR, your doctor will measure blood creatinine levels and then perform a calculation. A good score is over 90; 60-89 means your kidneys should be monitored; less than 60 for 3 months indicates kidney disease.