March 19, 2021 / By Jeff Stone DO, MPH, Medical Director, Molina Healthcare of Texas
Below your rib cage on each side of your spine, the kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that filter toxins from your blood. They do this by creating urine, which is flushed out of your body.
The kidneys have many other important jobs too: they regulate blood pressure as well as pH levels, control the production of red blood cells and help your body absorb calcium for healthy bones.
What is kidney disease?
Roughly 15% of U.S. adults suffer from kidney disease, the inability of kidneys to function properly due to damage. When kidneys can’t filter your blood, health problems like anemia (low red blood cells), increased infections and weaker bone health often arise.
Untreated, the disease can stop kidneys from working altogether. This is when dialysis is needed. Dialysis uses a machine to perform the kidney’s functions: filtering and purifying the blood. But dialysis can’t cure kidney disease, so it’s not a permanent solution.
What causes it?
Diabetes and high blood pressure – also called hypertension – are the leading causes of kidney disease.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a long-term condition that affects how your body produces energy from food. Diabetes causes high blood sugar. Over time, this damages blood vessels in the eyes, legs, feet and kidneys. With impaired kidney function, toxins don’t get flushed out and high blood sugar makes the kidneys filter too much blood and eventually leak. Thankfully, when kidney disease is diagnosed early, several treatments may keep it from getting worse.
What Is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against artery walls and has a significant impact on your health. For details, click here to see our recent post about it.
High blood pressure can lead to major health problems. Remember:
The DASH Diet
Of course, you should talk to your doctor before making changes to what you eat. But there is a diet designed to prevent and manage these health issues.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet can help reverse hypertension. It focuses on consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, which is about one teaspoon.
The diet also emphasizes foods rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, heart-healthy protein, and fiber like fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, which can be helpful for preventing diabetes. “Good” fats and healthy carbohydrates are fine, too.
But it’s important to avoid red meat, sweets, sugary snacks and anything high in saturated fats, trans fats, “bad” cholesterol, and sodium.
Visit your doctor
The best way to steer clear of disease is to catch signs early enough to make changes. Visit your primary care physician regularly to check for risk and symptoms of kidney disease.
What causes diabetes? Find out and take control
How does diabetes cause kidney disease?