Cedars-Sinai Blog

Show Your Kidneys Some Love for World Kidney Day

A pair of kidneys

Unless you've had a kidney condition, you probably don't think about your kidneys much. Kidneys play a vital role in overall health, but they're often underappreciated—at least until something goes wrong.

Your kidneys are hardworking organs: They clean your blood, regulate your chemical balance, help control blood pressure, stimulate bone marrow to make red blood cells, turn waste and excess fluid into urine, and more.

World Kidney Day is the perfect time to recognize the work our kidneys do and show them a little love.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects more than 10% of adults in the US—more than 20 million people—according to the Centers for Disease Control. It's a condition in which the kidneys become damaged and can no longer filter blood as well as healthy kidneys. This causes the waste normally removed by the kidneys to remain in the body, leading to health problems. Advanced CKD can lead to renal failure that has to be treated by dialysis or kidney transplant.

Chronic kidney disease can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication, but often there are no early symptoms. So if you're at risk for CKD, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested. Simple blood and urine tests can detect CKD—early treatment is key.

What are the risk factors for CKD?

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Lupus
  • Family history of CKD

Adults over 50, African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and Native Americans have an increased risk of CKD

Risk for chronic kidney disease can be managed with many of the same steps needed to stay healthy in general, and to mitigate heart disease and cancer risk.

Protect your kidneys:

  • Exercise. This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym. Even walking or jogging around your neighborhood at a moderate pace most days will help. Riding a bike, playing a sport, using weights while watching TV, and taking a dance class all count too.
  • Eat nutritious meals and go easy on the salt. 5-6 grams of salt a day is the recommended amount—about a teaspoon.
  • Hydrate. Your kidneys need water to make urine, which carries waste out of your body. Drink 3-4 pints of water a day to help your kidneys clear sodium, urea, and toxins from the body.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking interferes with medications used to treat high blood pressure—and high blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease. Smoking also slows the blood flow to the kidneys, impairing their functioning. Smokers have a 50% higher risk of developing kidney cancer.
  • Limit alcohol. Kidneys filter alcohol and other harmful substances from our blood. That’s why drinking in excess can affect kidney health and cause related liver damage. More than 7 drinks per week for women and more than 14 per week for men is considered heavy drinking. At those, and even lower levels, alcohol can disrupt the kidneys’ ability to filter blood. Preserving the right amount of water in our bodies also becomes more difficult because alcohol is dehydrating, which further affects cells and organs, including the kidneys.
  • Know the risk of certain pain medications. If you have arthritis or back pain, talk to your doctor about controlling your discomfort without putting your kidneys at risk. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen have been linked to kidney damage and disease if taken regularly. These medications aren’t likely to pose much danger if your kidneys are healthy and you use them occasionally. Long-term use for chronic pain is another story.
  • Get your kidney function checked. Especially if you have one or more of the risk factors above.