How healthy are your kidneys?

How healthy are your kidneys?

Your kidneys are a hugely important part of your body you might not always pay much mind to. When they’re healthy, your kidneys keep your body free from harmful toxins. But if there’s a problem, few of us actually know how to spot the signs or reduce our risk of illness.

With the number of people being treated for kidney disease going up year on year, make sure you’re in the know on how to keep your kidneys healthy.

What is kidney disease?

Usually, your kidneys flush dangerous toxins out from your body as urine. But when your kidneys aren’t working properly, they don’t do this, meaning that those toxins build up in your body, making you unwell.

Am I at risk of kidney disease?

Kidney disease can affect anyone at any age, but there are a few factors that can up your risk, including:

  • If you have diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor diet
  • A family history of kidney disease
  • If you have heart complications, such as heart disease
  • If you're of South Asian or Afro-Caribbean ethnic background

What are the signs of kidney disease?

Kidney disease can be difficult to spot, because the signs aren’t always obvious. But if you experience these symptoms, especially if have some of the risk factors above, go and see your GP:

  • Lack of appetite or sudden weight loss
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Itchy skin
  • Breathlessness when you exercise or exert yourself
  • Feeling sick and dizzy

How do I keep my kidneys healthy?

Making simple tweaks to your everyday lifestyle is the best way to keep kidney disease at bay and make sure your vital organs are working as they should.

Keep it down

Maintaining a healthy weight is so important for keeping down your blood pressure and staving off diabetes, both of which significantly drop your risk of developing kidney disease. Taking regular exercise- just 30 minutes a day is all it takes- will make a difference, as well as eating a balanced, varied diet.

Bring down your blood pressure

Having high blood pressure can speed up any damage to your kidneys, so it’s important to keep it in check. Exercise, plenty of fruit and vegetables and not drinking too much alcohol and coffee can all help keep your blood pressure low. Your GP will be able to take a reading of your blood pressure, as well as suggesting a plan for how to lower it if it is a little high.

Slow down on the salt

Eating too much salt causes your body to hold onto more water which raises your blood pressure and puts extra strain on your kidneys, which can cause damage later down the line. It's recommended that you shouldn't eat more than 6g of salt every day.

The best way to cut your salt intake is too avoid shaking any extra salt onto your meals or when you’re cooking. Try to use herbs and spices or seasonings like chilli, ginger, lemon or lime juice to add flavour instead. Look at food labels too to see how much salt they contain before putting them in your shopping basket (read our guide to food labels here). 

Table sauces, breads and breakfast cereals all tend to contain a lot of hidden salt so try to compare brands first and eat in moderation.

 Stub it out

Smoking slows down the blood flow to organs like your kidneys, which can cause real damage. Stubbing out will not only boost your kidney’s health, it also reduces your risk of a heart attack and stroke. Find out more on how to quit here.

  •  Kidney Research UK are running a ‘Go Purple’ campaign throughout March, urging you to wear purple in the name of raising awareness of kidney disease. Find out how you can join in here.
  • There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.