While your heart pumps nutrient-rich blood throughout your body, your kidneys filter waste out of blood and turn it into urine.
In a way, your kidneys help keep your body’s “fuel” clean so your “engine” can run smoothly.
It makes sense then why kidneys get their own month in the spotlight. March is National Kidney Month, and it’s every bit worth recognizing.
Most people have two kidneys—about the size of a computer mouse and weighing around five ounces each—located in the back of their abdomen and just below their rib cage on each side of their spine. In addition to removing toxins, kidneys also help keep blood pressure in check and make red blood cells.
Though these organs pack a powerful punch in maintaining good health, most people won’t know anything is wrong with their kidneys until there’s a severe problem. But, that can change thanks to regular screenings.
Did you know that one in three people is at risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD), which can lead to kidney failure? And, diabetes is the leading risk factor for CKD.
In fact, of the nearly 33 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, about 40 percent have evidence of CKD. And, those with both CKD and diabetes are at three times greater risk of a cardiovascular-related death.
That’s why it’s important to check in on your kidneys at least once a year, especially if you have type 2 diabetes.
Ask your doctor for the following tests to ensure your kidneys are in good health:
- ACR (albumin-to-creatinine ratio): A urine test that detects if there’s protein in your urine. An ACR below 30 is considered normal.
- eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate): A blood test that determines how well your kidneys are functioning overall. Because age, gender, and race factor into eGFR, “normal” levels vary. However, typically a normal eGFR is 90 or above. Anything below 60 is a sign that the kidneys are not working well.
In addition to regularly checking in on your kidneys, you can also protect your kidneys in your everyday life by:
- Keeping blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in a healthy range
- Eating well-balanced meals, including two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Getting regular physical activity
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol
- Doing what you can to reduce stress
- Taking all medications as prescribed
- Checking with your doctor about taking over-the-counter medications such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen