The kidneys are vital organs that perform a lot of important functions in the body.
These functions include filtering your blood to get rid of waste/toxins and maintain a good salt and water balance.
The kidneys are also involved in hormonal regulation and vitamin or mineral metabolism.
Loss of kidney function is not compatible with life and for this reason, dialysis is often necessary once one develops kidney failure.
Kidney dysfunction rarely occurs suddenly. Often, it takes years of continuous assault before the kidneys get significant damage.
Harmful habits that damage your kidneys include:
Painkillers may seem harmless since they are regularly prescribed and are even available over the counter in supermarkets and even kiosks.
However, pain medication belonging to a group known as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), can be harmful to your kidney if taken in large quantities.
If you are dealing with chronic (long-standing) pain that requires regular painkillers, ask your doctor what drugs are safe for your kidneys.
Taking too much salt
Excess salt content (specifically sodium) causes water retention and can lead to increase in blood pressure.
Poorly controlled high blood pressure has been known to damage the kidneys. It is important that you look for hidden sources of salt such as processed meats, canned foods, sauces and even some types of bread.
Try to avoid adding salt to food on the table
Cigarette smoking is harmful to all organs in the body, including the kidneys. Smoking damages blood vessels to the kidney and it reduces the amount of oxygen rich blood reaching them.
Not drinking enough water
Adequate fluid intake is necessary for optimal kidney function and it can help reduce the risk of getting urinary tract infections.
Very low fluid intake can also predispose one to developing kidney stones. Ideally, we should drink at least two or three litres of fluid a day. The ideal fluid is water since it does not have calories but fluids such as clear soup, juice, milk etc. can contribute to your daily allowance.
(Alcohol is not considered an ‘ideal’ fluid since it dehydrates the body).
Not controlling your medical conditions
Diabetes, hypertension and high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol can damage the blood vessels to the kidney leading to its dysfunction.
In Kenya, poorly controlled diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney failure (requiring dialysis).
Other medical conditions that can lead to kidney dysfunction include autoimmune conditions like lupus, HIV, and polycystic kidneys among others. If you have a health condition that puts your kidneys at risk, ensure that it is well controlled.
Ignoring family history
Many medical conditions that lead to kidney damage run in families. For this reason, it is important that you find out if any of your immediate relatives have long-standing medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension or autoimmune health problems.
With this information, go to your doctor for a check-up and screening to see if you may be having the condition of concern. Early detection and treatment of a disease can prevent the development of complications like kidney damage.
Holding in the urge to pee
The bladder can hold up to two cups of liquid for three to four hours.
However, some people are in the habit of holding in their pee for long periods despite having an urge to void.
This habit is bad for your urinary system and can put you at risk of getting infections, which can spread all the way to the kidney.
Ignoring warning signs from your prostate
As you age, your prostate enlarges. Usually, most men will report having a weak urinary stream, dribbling of urine after going to the toilet and regularly going to the toilet to pass small amounts of urine.
A very large prostate blocks the outlet of the bladder and prevents urine from coming out properly.
This blockage increases the pressure in the urinary system and can damage the kidneys. If you have noticed a change in your urinary habits, speak to your doctor about a prostate assessment.
You drink too much alcohol
Alcohol abuse contributes to kidney dysfunction. This is because it causes dehydration and has been thought to contribute to problems in blood pressure control. Alcohol also damages the liver, an organ that helps breakdown medication used to control hypertension and diabetes. This can lead to poor control of these conditions.
Not exercising enough
Exercise helps improve your body’s circulation, controls your blood pressure and improves your diabetes control. All these are beneficial to your kidney.
Too many scans
We are in an age where everyone is keen on getting CT (CAT) scans every time they get a symptom. For example, if you get a persistent cough, you ask your doctor for a CT scan of your chest. Although CT scans are a wonderful diagnostic tool, they carry their own risks.
Apart from radiation exposure, CT scans usually require administration of a liquid known as ‘contrast’. This liquid usually defines internal organs and blood vessels better on CT imaging.
Use of contrast has been known to damage the kidneys (or worsen the function of mildly damaged kidneys). For this reason, most doctors are very judicious in their use of CT scans.