With more than 20 million or one in 10 American adults having some level of chronic kidney disease, the need for proper kidney health education is crucial. According to Dr. Kozin, "Early kidney disease does not usually present any signs or symptoms. It isn't until the later stages of kidney disease that it becomes more obvious there is a problem. As with many conditions, prevention is the best medicine. It is basically a good practice to adopt a lifestyle that promotes good kidney health."

Your kidneys serve an extremely important function - filtering your blood and removing excess salt, water and waste to make urine. They also play an integral part in controlling blood pressure. When kidneys are damaged, water and wastes can build up in the body. Untreated, kidney disease is dangerous and even potentially deadly.

In most people with kidney disease, damage to the kidneys is caused by diabetes, high blood pressure or medications. The damage occurs slowly, over many years. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you should have blood and urine tests to check your kidney function. If kidney disease is caught early, it can be treated. The blood test checks your creatinine and glomerular filtration rate, which indicates how the kidneys are functioning. A urine test will check the level of protein in the urine.

Too much protein in the urine may indicate kidney disease. A person with late-stage kidney disease may experience an exacerbation in blood pressure or have the need to urinate more frequently, particularly at night. Other symptoms that may accompany frequent urination include a metallic taste in the mouth, itching and hiccups. Advanced kidney disease also can cause puffiness around the eyes, and swelling of the hands and feet.

The best way to keep your kidneys healthy if you have diabetes or high blood pressure is to keep those conditions under control. Other tips for keeping your kidneys healthy:
  • Take medicines for diabetes and blood pressure as directed by your doctor. Certain blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors or ARBs may help protect your kidneys.
  • Consume less salt-ideally less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily.
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and appropriate amounts of protein.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking can worsen kidney damage.
  • Become more physically active.
Taking steps to protect your kidneys will help the rest of your body. By making healthy lifestyle changes, and working with your health care team to control your diabetes and high blood pressure, you can keep your kidneys in good shape for many years to come.