We all know that taking care of our heart and lungs is important, but how much do you know about your kidney health? Your kidneys are one of your body’s most important organs, so it’s important to ensure good kidney care.

Living a healthy lifestyle is a good way to look after your overall health, but there are specific things you can do for your kidneys to ensure they remain fully functioning.

Facts and stats about kidney health

Kidneys are vital for your body to be able to process waste, produce urine, remove waste products and keep your blood filtered. Kidneys that fail to function can cause a build-up of waste products in your body, which can lead to a number of serious health issues requiring dialysis or even a transplant. Kidney disease has no cure, which is why it’s important to take good care of your kidneys, especially at a younger age.

According to Kidney Care UK, 1 in 8 people in the UK will develop chronic kidney disease, with some of the leading causes being diabetes and high blood pressure. As a leading cause of premature death in the UK, it’s a serious condition that needs more awareness to prevent further increases in sufferers.

One of the treatments for kidney failure is a transplant, and even though more than 3,342 kidney transplants take place in the UK every year, more than 5,000 people are on the waiting list.

Identifying a kidney infection

Kidney infections can be common, and can happen on their own or as a progression from a UTI (urinary tract infection). The symptoms of a kidney infection can appear quickly, with some of the most common warning signs including:

  • Pain in your side, lower back or genitals
  • A high temperature
  • Chills, shivering
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling nauseous

You might also notice pain or burning while peeing, feeling the urge to pee suddenly and often if you have a UTI as well.

If you suspect a UTI and symptoms are causing you a lot of pain or discomfort, the advice is to contact your doctor – especially if they don’t disappear after a couple of days or you notice blood in your urine. Leaving a UTI untreated can develop into a kidney infection, so be sure to monitor your symptoms closely. Kidney infections usually need to be treated quickly with antibiotics, so if you’re displaying symptoms it’s best to book an appointment with your doctor.

If you notice that you’re suffering UTIs on a regular basis, it’s worth looking at the steps you can take to prevent UTIs or consulting your doctor to see if there’s an underlying cause. Ignoring problems can make them worse, so it’s recommended to seek the help you need as quickly as possible.

Kidney care 101

With your kidneys being such a vital part of your health, it’s important that you take care of them. Some of the things you can do to ensure good kidney care include:

Stay hydrated

This is the most important thing you can do to help your kidneys. Drinking fluids allows them to function, so aim to drink around 2-litres of water a day, and more if you’re exercising, if it’s hot or if you’ve been sweating a lot. There are some key indicators of dehydration such as dry lips, a headache, blurred vision and straw coloured urine.

Eat healthily

Your body relies on having the right vitamins and minerals to ensure that it functions properly. A good diet for your kidneys is likely to include:

  • Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Eating grains such as wholewheat bread, rice and pasta.
  • Vitamin D is a vital mineral for promoting good kidney health, so eat foods like mushrooms, eggs and almond milk to get your fix.
  • Avoid foods that are high in fat and salt, especially processed foods. Cooking your own meals and using fresh, natural ingredients can help you improve your diet and limit the amount of added salt and sugar you consume.
  • Limit your alcohol intake and give up smoking. Alcohol in particular dehydrates you, and excessive consumption can cause damage to your kidneys over time. It is also recommended to avoid alcohol if you’ve been diagnosed with kidney disease.

If you have kidney disease, there are foods that are beneficial for kidney care, including red peppers, garlic, cabbage and cranberries – which help neutralise the acid in your urine if you’re battling an UTI.

Stay within a healthy weight range

As two of the leading causes of kidney disease, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure can be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight. Regular exercise and sticking to a healthy diet will help you to keep your weight at a safe level.

Physical activity guidelines state that you should complete at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, and one of the ways you can do this is by walking more. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to stay fit, and moderate exercise such as walking, running and swimming can be an effective way of staying fit and healthy.

The NHS has an excellent 12-week weight loss plan which can help you get started with your weight loss. Rather than trying out various faddy diets, you’ll be much better off trying to maintain a healthy approach to eating.

Organ donation and kidney care

With the number of people on the waiting list for a kidney transplant as high as it is, there is an urgent need for donors. Registering to be an organ donor could potentially save someone’s life. Registration is quick and simple, and you can do it online in minutes.

By looking after your general health, you can take better care of your vital organs such as your kidneys. Staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a good diet are just some of the basic things you can do to ensure good kidney care. Start today to ensure a healthy future for you and your kidneys.