They're an important control system in our bodies, filtering toxins and regulating blood pressure and hormones. That's why it's important to take good care of our kidneys.
"The kidneys are very important to maintain volume, mineral status and elimination of toxins," said Dr. Jaime Uribarri, a nephrologist at Mount Sinai Hospital. "At the same time, they are important to maintain levels of Vitamin D and of the hormone that controls the level of red cells in the blood."
It's estimated that more than 25 million people in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease. March is National Kidney Month, and NY1 asked Uribarri to explain what can be done to prevent the disease and to maintain good kidney health.
"The main two causes, 60 percent of the cases are due to diabetes and hypertension, so most of the emphasis in terms of prevention of chronic kidney disease should be in dealing with patients with diabetes and hypertension," Uribarri says.
The best way to prevent diabetes and hypertension is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's important to exercise, to eat fresh, healthy, unprocessed foods, and to limit salt. Also, don't smoke. And since our kidneys filter all the fluids we ingest, he suggests we drink plenty of water and avoid processed drinks like soda.
Progressive kidney disease is a silent disease. There are often no symptoms, but sometimes, there can be signs of a problem.
"If you suddenly see blood in your urine, if you find that your urine is very foamy or if you have a lot of pain in the area of your kidneys, which is the lower back, if you have swelling of the feet of some other areas of the body, those may be indications that there is a significant problem," Uribarri says.
If you have these symptoms, check with your doctor immediately. Also, if you have a family history of kidney disease, a history of kidney stones, if you are older than the age of 60 or if you're African-American, you are at higher risk, so you should be tested regularly. Early detection is key because there are therapies that can slow the progression of the disease or reverse it.
To learn more about kidney health, visit kidney.org.