Your Kidneys and How They Work
What Can I Do About Kidney Disease?
Unfortunately, kidney disease cannot be
cured. But if you are in the early stages of a kidney disease, you may be able
to make your kidneys last longer by taking certain steps.
- If you have diabetes, watch your blood
sugar closely to keep it under control. Consult your doctor for the latest in
- Have your blood pressure checked
regularly. Talk with your doctor about the best medicine to keep your blood
pressure under control.
- Avoid pain pills that may make your kidney
disease worse. Check with your doctor before taking any medicine.
People with reduced kidney function need to
be aware that some parts of a normal diet may speed their kidney
Protein is important to your body. It helps
your body repair muscles and fight disease. Protein comes mostly from meat. As
discussed in an earlier section, healthy kidneys take wastes out of the blood
but leave in protein. Impaired kidneys may fail to separate the protein from
Some doctors tell their kidney patients to
limit the amount of protein they eat so that the kidneys have less work to do.
But you cannot avoid protein entirely. You may need to work with a dietitian to
find the right food plan.
Another problem that may speed kidney
failure is too much cholesterol (koh-LEStuh-rawl) in your blood. High levels of
cholesterol may result from a high-fat diet.
Cholesterol can build up on the inside
walls of your blood vessels. The buildup makes pumping blood through the
vessels harder for your heart.
Although scientists do not know exactly
why, patients with high cholesterol are more likely to have kidney problems.
They also know that kidney patients who keep their cholesterol under control --
either through diet or medicine -- are more likely to preserve their remaining
Sodium is a chemical found in salt and
other foods. Sodium in your diet may raise your blood pressure, so you should
limit foods that contain high levels of sodium. High-sodium foods include
canned or processed foods like frozen dinners and hot dogs.
Potassium is a mineral found naturally in
many fruits and vegetables, like potatoes, bananas, dried fruits, dried beans
and peas, and nuts. Healthy kidneys measure potassium in your blood and remove
excess amounts. Diseased kidneys may fail to remove excess potassium, which can
slow down the heart.
Anemia is a condition in which the blood
does not contain enough red blood cells. These cells are important because they
carry oxygen throughout the body. If you are anemic, you will feel tired and
look pale. Healthy kidneys make the hormone EPO, which stimulates the bones to
make red blood cells. Diseased kidneys may not make enough EPO. You may need to
take injections of a manmade form of EPO. Other types of anemia may be treated
with iron supplements or folic acid (a B vitamin) injections.
Preparing for End-Stage Renal
As your kidney disease progresses, you will
need to make several decisions. You will need to learn about your options for
treating ESRD so that you can make an informed choice between hemodialysis,
peritoneal dialysis, and transplantation.