Health Watch -- Care for Your Kidneys

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Are you doing what's necessary to take care of a pair of vital organs?

Your kidneys are absolutely essential to your health, your well-being - and to your life. With the aid of dialysis, people with damaged or failing kidneys can stay alive, but it's not the same as having healthy, functioning kidneys.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say kidneys play a number of roles in your body. They regulate water in the body. They remove waste from the body. They control levels of minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphate. They also produce hormones that help with various bodily functions like blood pressure, red blood cell production and the uptake of calcium from the intestines.

Dr. Robert Toto, a UT Southwestern kidney specialist, says kidneys provide the minute-to-minute regulation of blood pressure, fluids and electrolytes in the body. Because of this, maintaining good health in general means keeping your kidneys healthy.

How do you do this? Have your blood pressure checked regularly. Much kidney disease is related to high blood pressure. Don't smoke. Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced, nutritious diet and exercise. Get sufficient rest. Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies you use, because some of these can cause kidney damage.

Kidney function can be determined through a simple urine test. High levels of a particular protein are a possible early warning sign of decreasing kidney function.


Aug. 2004

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