Wuppertal/Berlin (dpa/tmn) – The kidneys produce urine, don’t they? That is true, but by far it is not the only function that organs have.
They also regulate blood pressure, produce vitamin D and some hormones, stimulate blood formation and balance the water and acid-base balance of the body.
Quite a lot of tasks for the two organs, which are located in the abdomen and resemble the shape of a bean. For this reason, the kidney is also called “kidney” in English.
If something is wrong with the kidneys, the whole body can become unbalanced. But how do we even know this is the case? And how do we keep our kidneys in shape?
Regular visits to the family doctor.
“Unfortunately, the kidneys are only noticed very late,” says Volker Lechterbeck, chief physician at the nephrology clinic at the Petrus Hospital in Wuppertal. Because kidney diseases often go hand in hand without pain or other symptoms.
Anyone who only pays attention to the symptoms probably won’t recognize kidney disease until very late. That is why regular check-ups with your GP are important. A urine dipstick can show if protein has been excreted or if there is blood in the urine.
“What we have been promoting very strongly lately is urine albumin determination,” says Kai M. Schmidt-Ott, specialist in internal medicine and nephrology at Charité Berlin.
Albumin is a special protein that the kidneys excrete in the urine. These excretions are closely related to progressive renal dysfunction. Therefore, they may indicate chronic kidney disease.
Your family doctor may also take blood samples and determine your blood creatinine value in the laboratory. This value provides an indication of how well the kidneys are performing their filtering function. An elevated value may be the first sign that kidney function is declining.
Avoid being overweight
Most kidney diseases are chronic and progress slowly. This often affects other diseases as well. The organ plays a decisive role in heart and vascular diseases, for example.
There are several things you can do to prevent kidney disease. A healthy diet comes first, explains kidney specialist Schmidt-Ott.
This includes avoiding being overweight. The biggest risk factor for later kidney disease is diabetes. People of normal weight have a lower risk of developing diabetes and therefore kidney disease.
“Thirty to 40 percent of patients who have kidney disease so severe that they have to go on dialysis or have a transplant are diabetics,” explains Schmidt-Ott, who is the medical site manager for the medical clinic with a focus on nephrology and internal intensive care. medicine.
Eat healthy and low in salt
According to Schmidt-Ott, the same recommendations apply to people with healthy kidneys: “Mediterranean diet, low meat, strive for healthy body weight, low salt foods.”
In the case of very advanced kidney disease, a diet low in potassium can be useful, always in consultation with the nephrologist. However, for people with healthy kidneys, this recommendation does not apply across the board.
Arterial hypertension, which according to Schmidt-Ott affects more than a third of the German population, is one of the risk factors for kidney disease. This is also why a low-salt diet is recommended. Because a high intake of salt can increase blood pressure.
Treating high blood pressure with medication can prevent kidney disease. Therefore, your family doctor should also check your blood pressure regularly.
Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and certain pain relievers
“We tell all patients where we identify a problem with their kidneys that they should definitely stop smoking,” says Schmidt-Ott. Because nicotine is known to play an important role in vascular diseases, and they are closely related to kidney diseases.
The connection between alcohol and liver disease is well known to many. Excessive alcohol consumption can also damage the kidneys, according to the nephrologist. Directly, but also indirectly, because alcohol changes fluid balance, but also liver function.
Also, genetic factors or autoimmune diseases can promote kidney disease. But taking pain relievers like ibuprofen or diclofenac can also trigger kidney disease, at least if you take them in large amounts.
Conventional wisdom put to the test
The most common popular wisdom is: Drinking a lot helps the kidneys. However, the rule must be viewed critically, according to Lechterbeck. Because drinking large amounts has not been scientifically proven to prevent kidney disease from progressing.
On the contrary, patients with advanced kidney disease are sometimes even encouraged to drink less, for example, if water has accumulated in the body due to heart failure.
Kidney patients should drink more when it comes to counteracting kidney stones, for example, explains nephrologist and internist Lechterbeck.
Effective medications are now available for the treatment of progressive kidney disease. The sooner they are used, the better. But you can also influence how kidney disease develops with your own lifestyle.