Your kidneys play many roles in keeping your body healthy.
In addition to filtering your blood, they also produce various hormones that help control your blood pressure, produce red blood cells and activate vitamin D, for example. Kidneys can become less effective due to an illness or accident. Acute renal failure refers to a sudden loss of normal kidney function (e.g. following an injury or drug intoxication), whereas chronic renal disease refers to cases where the loss of function is gradual.
Chronic kidney disease often goes unnoticed. It isn’t uncommon for people to experience no symptoms until the condition is very advanced. When the kidneys are weakened, they can no longer filter the blood and various substances can begin to accumulate in the body. This can even become toxic, in which case the person may need dialysis (a machine that filters the patient’s blood) or a kidney transplant.
It would be difficult to prevent acute renal failure from occurring, but we can prevent chronic kidney disease, or at least slow its progression once it has begun. Did you know that hypertension and diabetes are the two most common causes of kidney disease? By reducing your risk of developing those conditions, or by controlling them once they have developed, you can reduce the toll they take on your kidneys.
What are some concrete steps you can take? Maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced low-salt diet, stay physically active and don’t smoke. If you already have high blood pressure or diabetes, take your medication as prescribed so that you get the most out of the treatment, and follow your doctor’s dietary recommendations.
For more information on kidney disease, visit The Kidney Foundation of Canada website (www.kidney.ca).