The kidneys are vital organs that are needed to maintain healthy living. Currently, at least one new case of kidney failure is seen daily in any outpatient clinic in Nigeria, with some clinics seeing over three new cases daily. Living with chronic kidney diseases is expensive as patients need at least three sessions of hemodialysis daily, drugs administered during each session, lifestyle modification, and change in diet. In addition, the encounter the cost and burden of having a kidney transplant. The good news is that many kidney diseases can be avoided altogether with some lifestyle changes. In this article, we are going to look at 12 ways to maintain healthy kidneys. Blood pressure control: Uncontrolled hypertension is said to be among the leading causes of kidney failure. Hypertension is an elevation in blood pressure with values greater than 140 mmHg and 90 mmHg for systolic and diastolic pressures respectively. Increase in blood pressure targets and destroys the kidneys over time. This leads to irreversible kidney damage that will require dialysis and kidney transplant. It is estimated that one in every three Nigerians is battling with hypertension. Control of blood pressure greatly reduces the risk of developing kidney disease and it is an important factor in maintaining healthy kidneys.
Alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol damages the cells in the kidneys. When this happens, the cells can no longer function properly, leading to kidney disease. Cutting alcohol reduces the stress on the kidneys.
Smoking: Cigarettes contain over 200 toxins. These toxins increase metabolic stress on the kidneys and other vital organs. Oxidants target and destroy tiny blood vessels found in the kidneys and also increase oxidative stress, leading to cell death. When cells in the kidneys die, the kidneys can no longer perform their key functions.
Water: The benefits of drinking adequate water daily cannot be overemphasized. About 70 percent of an adult’s weight is made up of water, and water is needed by all of the body’s cells and organs. Drinking enough water daily improves kidney functions, leading to healthy kidneys.
Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, which target and neutralize toxins and reactive free radicals that damage the cells of the kidneys. Fruits contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for fighting against diseases and infections. Consuming fruits and vegetables daily is another way of maintaining healthy living.
Avoid over-the-counter drugs: Statistically, it has been shown that nearly every adult in Nigeria has taken drugs not prescribed by the doctor or pharmacist. Several drugs available on the market are nephrotoxic, meaning that they can damage the kidneys if not taken with caution. Taking over-the-counter drugs (OTCs) can be very harmful and in major hospitals in Nigeria, it has been identified as a major cause of kidney damage.
These drugs, when taken for a prolonged period of time, can damage the unique and labile cells of the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. To prevent renal damage, endeavour to only take drugs that have been prescribed by your physician.
Reduce salt intake: Salt is part of a normal diet. Adequate salt is healthy for the body, but taking salt in excess can damage the kidneys. It has been noted that African kidneys can't handle salt in the same way as Caucasians, and this has become a major public health concern because an increase in salt intake has been attributed to hypertension in Africans. Increased salt intake leads to the accumulation of water in the body, which in turn leads to increase in blood volume. The heart then works harder trying to pump this excess fluid in the body and this ultimately leads to hypertension, which damages and destroys the kidneys. Reducing salt intake reduces the risk of hypertension, helping to maintain healthy kidneys.
Adequate sugar control: Diabetes is a major disease that destroys the kidneys. An increase in blood sugar targets the cells of the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. Diabetes is second to hypertension as the leading cause of kidney failure in Nigeria. For patients diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, it is important that you control your blood sugar properly to prevent kidney injury and damage.
Treat UTIs promptly and properly: Urinary tract infection can affect any part of the urinary tract, and the kidneys are no exception. Infection can ascend from the urethra into the bladder and then to the kidneys. Infections of the kidneys can lead to kidney damage and failure. It is advised that all cases of urinary tract infection be treated adequately and promptly by a physician to prevent harmful effects on the kidneys. Antibiotics are highly effective in treating urinary tract infections.
Regular exercise: Having regular exercise increases blood flow to vital organs in the body, helps in weight reduction/maintaining adequate weight, increases the secretion of dopamine in the body, and rejuvenates and relaxes the body. All these factors increase blood flow to the kidneys and also help in maintaining healthy kidneys.
Personal protection at work (occupational hazards): People working in industries, factories, or road construction have a higher risk of developing kidney disease. This is as a result of constant exposure to chemicals and metals like asbestos, silicon, hydrocarbons, tar, silver and gold particles, and other toxic metals and elements found as part of occupational hazards. It is essential that all workers exposed to these toxins are protected to prevent kidney damage that may result from exposure to such metals and elements.
Avoid obesity and watch your cholesterol: Obesity is another risk factor for kidney damage. Increased blood cholesterol accumulates within the lumen of blood vessels that carry blood into the kidneys and this reduces blood supply to the kidneys. When this happens, kidney cells begin to die and, subsequently, kidney damage occurs. Maintaining healthy kidneys implies that you must control your weight by regular exercise, adequate and healthy diet, and watching your blood cholesterol. Kidney failure is a debilitating medical condition that puts strain on the patients and caregivers. The best approach is to prevent kidney failure before it takes place.