One in three Americans are at risk of developing kidney disease – but it remains shockingly undiagnosed. It causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer – and it can happen at any age, especially if you have risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, and genetic factors.
Your kidneys are an important part of your body. Each kidney has about 1 million nephrons, and every day, these nephrons take in blood, metabolize nutrients, and help pass out waste products from filtered blood. When your kidneys are working properly, they filter about half a cup of blood every minute – and they help maintain a healthy balance of water and minerals in your blood. But when your kidneys stop working, this can cause serious problems because water and waste products can’t be filtered out of the blood. When this happens, kidney dialysis becomes necessary in order to replace some of the functions of the kidney.
While it can be scary and stressful to be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), if you find out at the early stages of the disease, it can be possible to delay or avoid dialysis. Dialysis can help extend someone’s life, but it can be time consuming and demanding. In addition, it requires one to make lasting changes to their lifestyle, and it does not benefit other health problems – and it may even make some of them worse.
Before making any decision in regards to starting dialysis, it is important for you and your family to talk to your doctor. However, there are changes that one can make in order to avoid or delay the need for dialysis.
- Quit smoking. Smoking causes a faster progression of kidney disease, and it is recommended that those diagnosed with CKD quit smoking as soon as possible.
- Change your diet. A kidney-friendly diet usually limits sodium and potassium to 2,000 mg per day and phosphorus to 1,000 mg per day. When following a kidney-friendly diet, be sure to read the nutrition label – some common food items, such as avocados, bananas, dairy products, and whole wheat bread contain high levels of sodium and potassium.
- Manage diabetes. Diabetes is a known risk factor that can lead to chronic kidney disease.
- Manage blood pressure. High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, reducing their ability to work properly.
- Talk to your doctor. Your doctor is there to help if you have any questions about kidney or other health related concerns.
The earlier you start making lifestyle changes, the more effective you can be at nurturing your kidneys and preventing kidney decline.
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