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Take care of your kidneys; they’ll take care of you

Written by GEMS
Kidney disease is a major illness affecting 10 per cent of people in South Africa, mostly blacks. But it can be prevented.

Many black South Africans suffer from kidney disease, an illness that can be prevented with cor-ect lifestyle choices. According to the National Kidney Foundation of South Africa, black people are four times more likely to suffer kidney failure than any other group, mainly due to undetected and untreated high blood pressure.

Those who suffer from different forms of kidney disease are also at high risk of diabetes. High blood pressure is usually the cause of about 65 per cent of all cases of kidney disease, while diabetes is responsible for about 25 per cent.

What do the kidneys do?

The kidneys play an important role in keeping your body healthy. These two organs, located around your waist area, are your filters. They filter waste and excess water out of your blood and make urine. They also keep the body in chemical balance, juggling chemicals like salt and potassium. They help control your blood pressure, and make certain hormones. If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), it means your kidneys are damaged, your kidneys struggle to filter your blood to keep you in tip-top health. Waste substances can therefore build up.

The bad news is that once there’s damage, it can't be fixed. For example, Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) is a measure of kidney function. Your GFR can be anywhere between 0 and 100, where 100 is perfectly healthy. If it’s 90, you can’t do anything to push it back up to 100, but the good news is that there is a lot you can do to prevent your GFR from dropping lower. So start making the right lifestyle choices now, change how you live and eat, and visit your doctor or local clinic for regular checkups.

Stop unhealthy choices right now

Smoking is very bad for your kidneys. Try to stop today; give up now rather than face possible dialysis in future. A diet high in salt also affects the kidneys. Try to limit your salt intake and start improving the way you eat. Also be cautious about medication such as painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Consult your doctor to find out if they are safe for you to take.

Make health your choice in every way

Get your blood pressure tested as soon as possible. If you have high blood pressure, keep it under control. Never miss a dose of your blood pressure medication. Also try to keep your salt levels low, your weight down and get regular exercise. This also reduces stress, and will help you control adult-onset diabetes if you have it.

Eat fresh vegetables and fruit, and stay away from starches and sweets. Try to avoid bananas as they contain high levels of potassium and cause problems for your kidneys. Lots of water is essential, but drinking too much could be harmful. It all depends on how your body is coping. Visit your doctor to find out the right balance for you.

Warning signs of kidney disease?

Kidney disease usually affects both kidneys. These are the warning signs of kidney disease: High blood pressure; blood or protein in the urine; a GFR rate of less than 60; frequent urination, particularly at night; difficult or painful urination; puffiness around the eyes; and swelling of the hands and feet.