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Keeping kidneys healthy

Did you know that an estimated 37 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease? Thirty three percent of adults in the US are at risk for kidney disease – that’s one in three people.

March is National Kidney Month. Kidney disease is a major public health concern and often goes undetected until it’s very advanced.

The kidney plays an important role in overall health. It regulates the body’s fluid levels, filters wastes and toxins from the blood, releases a hormone that regulates blood pressure, activates vitamin D to maintain healthy bones, releases the hormone that directs production of red blood cells and keeps blood minerals in balance.

Kidney disease can cause heart disease, heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, weak bones, nerve damage, kidney failure and anemia or low red blood cell count.

Regular testing for everyone is important, but it’s especially important for those at risk.

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you are at higher risk for developing kidney disease. There are five main risk factors: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, family history of kidney failure, diabetes or high blood pressure and obesity.

Most people with early kidney disease have no symptoms, which is why early detection is critical. By the time symptoms appear, kidney disease may be advanced. Pay attention to these signs: fatigue, weakness, difficult painful urination, foamy urine, pink, dark urine (blood in urine), increased thirst, increased need to urinate (especially at night), puffy eyes, swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles and feet.

There are three simple tests that can save your life: blood pressure test, urine test and glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test.

The National Kidney Foundation has some tips for those who have kidney disease:

Lower high blood pressure

Manage blood sugar levels

Reduce salt intake

Avoid NSAIDs, a type of painkiller

Moderate protein consumption

Get the annual flu shot

Everyone should exercise regularly, control weight, follow a balanced diet, quit smoking, drink only in moderation, stay hydrated, monitor cholesterol levels, get an annual physical and know your family medical history.

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