June is Men’s Health Month. Here are just one of the vital concerns for Black men and what you can do to keep your kidneys in order.
WHAT IS KIDNEY DISEASE?
Kidney disease is the loss of normal kidney function.
Chronic kidney disease, commonly also referred to as chronic kidney failure or chronic renal failure, refers to the gradual loss of kidney function. Your kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine.
WHERE ARE YOUR KIDNEYS, HOW MANY DO WE HAVE, HOW MANY DO WE NEED AND HOW DO THEY FUNCTION?
Most people are born with 2 kidneys. However, a small percentage of individuals are born with just one solitary kidney. Our native kidneys are located high, one on each side, in our retroperitoneal spaces (in our flank areas) which are areas protected by our lower posterior rib cage on each side.
People can function with one normal kidney. This is the reason why people with two normal kidneys can safely donate one of their kidneys to give to another person during a living donor kidney transplant. Thus, in normal situations, people only need one kidney to function.
The kidneys function by filtering toxins and excess fluid out of our bloodstream. These toxins and excess fluid are excreted by the kidneys in the form of urine which is then transported down the ureters to the bladder where the urine is then stored until the individual voids.
HOW DO WE KEEP OUR KIDNEYS HEALTHY AND HOW OFTEN SHOULD WE GET OUR KIDNEYS CHECKED?
It is very important that we keep our kidneys healthy. Ways in which to maintain good health of our kidneys is to eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, avoid excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, exercise and maintain a healthy blood pressure and avoid the onset of high blood pressure and diabetes.
If we develop high blood pressure and/or diabetes, it is critical that we take our medication to control these conditions so that chronic kidney disease does not develop as a result of hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes. Hypertension and diabetes damage the small and large blood vessels which supply blood to our kidneys.
We should routinely have our blood pressure checked, several times per year, and if we have a family history of high blood pressure and/or diabetes we should even more often get checked for the presence of hypertension and diabetes.
Both of these conditions can exist without any early signs or symptoms, thus the importance of undergoing routine screenings for high blood pressure and diabetes.
Nowadays, more than ever, it is easy for us to routinely get our blood pressure checked. Many locations in communities are available to check our blood pressure for free, including at local pharmacies. A normal blood pressure in an adult is now considered to be less than 120 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic.
WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS OF KIDNEY DISEASE?
Most early stages of kidney disease present with NO symptoms whatsoever. However, the earliest signs are detected during laboratory blood testing ordered by your doctor when an elevated serum creatinine blood test is measured and elevated.
Also signs of kidney disease are finding of protein in the urine on a routine urine test called a urinalysis.
Some symptoms of chronic kidney disease (later stage kidney disease) include a combination of lower extremity swelling (swelling of your legs), weight gain, nausea and/or vomiting, shortness of breath, lethargy/malaise (feeling tired or weak), decreasing volumes of urine, dry and itchy skin, foamy urine and sometimes other symptoms.