Most people know that kidneys are an important organ in their body that plays the vital role of removing waste and excess fluids in the body. This bean-shaped organ is crucial to the regulation of our body’s salt, potassium, and acid content through a series of highly complex steps of excretion and reabsorption. In other words, kidneys help stabilize and maintain our body chemicals.
But more often than not, people follow a lifestyle and engage in activities that can potentially hinder or damage their kidney function. Expert nephrologists at our hospital in Dubai suggest that it is the need of the hour to learn about kidney health and how to maintain it. So, in this blog, we will talk more about kidneys to get a better understanding of this unique organ and further discuss ways to keep them healthy.
Kidneys- The Structure And Function
Kidneys are located high in the abdominal cavity of our body, one on each side of the spine. It is a bean-shaped structure that has a convex outer and concave inner border, The concave border has a recessed area called the renal hilum, which is where the renal artery enters the kidney and the renal vein and ureter leave.
Each kidney houses around one million tiny filters called nephrons which are responsible for filtering the blood that enters the organ. The blood that comes into the kidney is filtered, removing salts, minerals, and excess water, which then gets collected in the kidney’s pelvis in the form of urine. This drains out into the bladder through the ureter. After the cleansing function, the filtered blood leaves the kidneys through the renal veins and returns to the heart via the inferior vena cava.
During urine production, the kidney filters blood to generate 180 liters of filtrate called the ‘ultrafiltrate’ every day. However, not everything in this filtrate is passed out through the urine. The kidneys are also responsible for the secretion and reabsorption of various substances throughout the nephron, which is how the body’s chemical balance is maintained. For instance, 55% of the water from the filtrate is reabsorbed to maintain your body’s water levels. Secretions on the other hand are the reverse process of reabsorption. Here molecules are transported from the capillary network in the kidneys into the ultrafiltrate. Finally, the ultrafiltrate passes out from the nephron, goes through a collecting duct system, and into the ureters, where it is renamed urine. The urine is then collected at the bladder and excreted at will.
The kidneys are responsible for exerting a variety of metabolic waste products into the urine. These include uric acid from nucleic acid metabolism, protein catabolism, and nitrogenous wastes urea. The kidneys are also largely responsible for our body’s homeostasis through the regulation of electrolyte concentration, extracellular fluid volume, acid-base balance, and blood pressure. Kidneys, along with the endocrine system also coordinate many endocrine functions, that all help maintain the body’s internal stability.
Further, the kidneys also play a major role in blood pressure regulation, through the maintenance of sodium levels in the blood through reabsorption and secretion.
Diseases and conditions
Like any other organ in our body, kidneys are also prone to many diseases and conditions. Chronic kidney diseases may cause them to malfunction, like protein in the urine or reduced functionality for three months or longer.
Chronic kidney diseases often occur as a result of other conditions. For instance, diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure can negatively affect kidney functionality. At other times, kidney conditions are congenital or inherited. Here is more about various diseases affecting kidneys-
- Diabetes is one of the main villains leading to kidney failure. Patients whose bodies don’t make enough insulin or cannot use normal amounts of insulin are diagnosed with diabetes. As a result, their blood sugar levels will be high at all times. Consequently, this impacts kidney function.
- Hypertension or high blood vessels is another condition that can cause multiple complications- from strokes and heart attacks to kidney failure. High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls increases.
- Polycystic kidney disease is one of the common inherited kidney diseases characterized by the formation of kidney cysts. These cysts enlarge over time, damaging the organ and eventually lead to kidney failure. Other inherited conditions that affect kidneys include primary hyperoxaluria and Alport’s syndrome.
- Glomerulonephritis is a kidney disease, where the filtering units called glomeruli are inflamed. The disease usually develops over time and causes progressive loss of kidney function.
- Urinary tract infections occur when microbes enter the urinary tract. While this condition is treatable and doesn’t pose any threat as such, leaving it untreated may cause the infection to spread to the kidneys and create complications
- Kidney stones are a common condition when hard deposits made of minerals and salts are formed inside the kidneys. Smaller stones pass through the urine without issues. However, larger stones that are too large to pass cause pain and have to be broken down into smaller pieces that can pass out of the body.
- Congenital diseases develop while a baby is still growing in its mother’s womb. A common condition is when the valve-like mechanism between the bladder and ureter fails and causes the urine to flow back up into the kidneys. This causes infections and possible kidney damage.
- Apart from these, drug or alcohol abuse also affects kidney function and leads to kidney failure.
While some people are more prone to kidney issues, everyone must follow a healthy lifestyle for better kidney health. Our expert nephrologists recommend following some simple lifestyle changes that can help keep your kidneys healthy every day.
7 Ways To Ensure Better Kidney Health
Our neurologists recommend these seven ‘golden rules’ to ensure kidney health-
- Keep yourself hydrated
Drinking enough water is one of the best ways to keep your kidneys doing their job better. However, there is no need to overdo it. No research suggests that overhydration is effective in improving kidney health. Try to drink 2 to 3 liters of water every day to ensure optimal hydration.
- Eat the right foods
Most of the medical conditions that contribute to kidney problems like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases can be managed with good eating habits. Eating the right foods will help control weight, reduce blood pressure and keep blood sugar levels in check, which all helps in maintaining your kidney health.
- Exercise everyday
When we say exercise, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a gym workout. Your daily dose of cardio exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming can also help you stay off unhealthy weight gain and improve your heart health; and consequently your kidney health. However, overexerting is not advisable, especially if you are at high risk for heart diseases. Likewise, if you have any chronic conditions that require special care and rest, check with your physician before starting any workouts.
- Quit smoking
Smoking is one of the most problematic habits anyone can have. Smoking and vaping can damage blood vessels, thereby reducing the blood flow to major organs, including your kidneys. when kidneys stop receiving adequate blood, their functioning gets hindered. Cigarettes are a known carcinogenic substance and smoking them regularly is also associated with the risk of cancers, including kidney cancer.
- Be cautious with over the counter medications
We all tend to rely on over-the-counter medications for minor ailments- from headaches to back pains. Non-prescription pills like ibuprofen and naproxen are known to damage the kidneys if taken regularly for a long time. If you suffer from chronic pains and rely on painkillers often, it is advised that you talk to your physician and get prescribed medications that have a lower impact on kidney health or switch to alternate remedies for pain management.
- Monitor your sugar levels and blood pressure
50% of diabetic patients around the world tend to develop kidney damage in their lifetime. The only way to prevent this is by regularly monitoring blood sugar levels and keeping them under check. Similarly, high blood pressure is also damaging to your kidneys. People with diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular diseases are more prone to hypertension. So to reduce the risk of kidney failure, ensure good control of your blood pressure.
- Go for regular screening
People who are at higher risk of kidney failures should never miss out on their regular kidney function screening. Our nephrologists suggest that it is as important as monitoring your sugar levels and blood pressure to ensure that your kidneys are working perfectly. Kidneys are marvelous organs that can help you lead a normal life even at 30% functionality. So you must regularly monitor your kidney functioning as part of your routine health care.
To ensure that your kidneys are healthy and functioning at their full capacity, it is important to follow these 7 steps religiously. If you are interested in a kidney function screening, book your appointment with our best nephrologists in Dubai today.