Kidneys Are More Than Beans!

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When you think about kidneys, think about more than beans! Your pair of kidneys is among your body’s most important organs. Their job is to purify your blood and flush away impurities. When one or both kidneys fail, the results can be devastating or even fatal. Let’s discuss some facts about kidney health.

African–Americans and other people of color are more likely to develop kidney disease because of our increased incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, a family history of the disease and aging – all are major risk factors for Black people. But even with a high–risk profile, kidney disease can be avoided or controlled with early detection. Keep your weight under control by eating sensibly and getting plenty of exercise. Avoid high blood pressure with the same regimen, or, if you already have hypertension, take your medication regularly.

Here are some warning signs that should alert you to possible problems with your kidneys:

  • Excessive tiredness
  • Loss of energy
  • Mental confusion
  • Poor appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Muscle cramping at night
  • Morning puffiness around the eyes
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Swollen feet and ankles.

These symptoms don’t confirm that you have kidney disease, but one or more of them is cause for concern and you should see a doctor.

Initial screening for kidney disease is convenient and painless. A blood sample is usually taken to determine the levels of protein and a substance called creatinine in the blood. The results of these tests combined with your doctor’s consideration of your age, race, family history and any physical symptoms are usually enough to detect a problem. If indicated, a CT scan, ultrasound or kidney biopsy may also be needed.

Kidney stones are a fairly common ailment that can cause extreme discomfort if left untreated. Not all kidney stones are the same. Calcium deposits cause most, but other forms can result from too much acid in the blood, a urinary tract infection or a family history of the condition.

Again, diet plays an important role. Too much calcium, too much red meat and not enough water are frequent culprits. Kidney stones may pass from the body through urination without medical intervention. In cases where they don’t, non–surgical methods like laser treatment may be used. Kidney stones can recur, so a sensible eating plan and regular monitoring are in order to avoid frequent bouts of this painful condition.

Acute or chronic kidney failure may require a patient to undergo dialysis to survive. Dialysis is a method of removing toxins (impurities and waste) from the blood through mechanical means then returning the purified blood to the body. Treatments may be needed one or more times a week and each session typically requires a few hours.

Good kidney health is something every African–American can achieve with an awareness of what these vital organs need and regular screenings.

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