BLOOD TESTS ∙ 4 minutes read

How to keep your kidneys healthy (and why it’s important)

By Ashton Sheriff | Medically reviewed by Danielle Brightman

As far as iconic duos go, “Kidney & Kidney” doesn’t have the same ring to it as Batman & Robin or Ant & Dec. But as underrated as they may be, your kidneys are actually vital for keeping you healthy. 

That’s because they help to remove waste and excess fluids from your body that would otherwise be harmful if they were allowed to build up. They constantly filter your blood and the rest of your cells rely on them for their survival. 

But if something goes wrong with your kidneys it can have a big impact on your health. If they fail to function properly, all the excess waste and fluids that should have been filtered out will build up in your blood and make you ill. 

With this in mind, you may now be thinking “well, if I ever notice that my kidneys aren’t working as well as they should I will get them checked out”. 

But here’s the problem. Most people don’t get symptoms in the early stages of kidney disease, which means you might not know your kidneys are damaged until things get more severe and harder to treat.  

Astoundingly, people often don’t realise they have kidney disease until they’ve lost 90% of their kidney function. For this reason, kidney disease is referred to as a “silent disease” because most people can’t feel or see that they have it. 

Kidney damage is serious and irreversible. But don’t let that scare you, because it’s possible to prevent it by keeping on top of your health. The most effective way to check how well your kidneys are functioning is with a blood test. A blood test like the Fear Nothing Blood Test measures 3 of the most important biomarkers related to kidney health to show you how healthy your kidneys are. If any of the biomarkers are abnormal, the test will alert you so you can address it swiftly. 

So, now that we’ve established why it’s important to have healthy kidneys, let’s go over what they do in the body to truly understand why your body depends on them. 

What do the kidneys do?

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are located in your abdomen, on either side of your spine. As mentioned before they help to clean your blood by removing toxins and superfluous fluids from your body. This process creates urine, which flows from the kidneys to the bladder to be stored until you pee it out. They also: 

  • Help to keep your blood pressure normal. 
  • Regulate the amount of water in your body. 
  • Manage the production of vitamin D. 
  • Maintain a healthy balance of salts and minerals in your body.

How do I keep my kidneys healthy?

To protect your long term health and ensure the best quality of life, it’s important to look after your kidneys. Keeping your kidneys in good working order is relatively straightforward and can be achieved by maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. Specific things you can do to make sure your kidneys stay healthy include: 

  • Take a blood test: since kidney disease doesn’t usually cause symptoms in its initial stages, it’s highly recommended that you have your kidney function checked with a blood test. A home blood test can be used to assess your kidney health without needing to see a doctor, making it quick and easy to find out how they’re performing. You can then use your results to tweak your lifestyle in ways that help you look after your kidneys as effectively as possible. 

  • Eat healthily: maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is vital for optimal kidney function. It’s recommended that you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat grains, and avoid salty and fatty foods. The DASH diet is ideal for those who want to look after their kidneys. Studies show it reduces the chance of kidney stone formation, lowers blood pressure, and decreases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. 

  • Quit smoking and cut down on alcohol: ditching cigarettes and limiting your alcohol intake are two greatly beneficial things you can do for your kidneys, as well as your health in general. This is because smoking and drinking raise your blood pressure, which increases your risk of kidney disease. The NHS advises that men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. If you need help to stop smoking, the NHS has free local Stop Smoking Services that can help you quit for good. 

  • Exercise regularly: being overweight increases your blood pressure and this can have a serious impact on your kidneys. To stay healthy, you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. Activities such as jogging, cycling, and swimming are fun and effective ways to keep fit. If your current fitness level doesn’t allow you to do any of these, you can get your foot on the exercise ladder simply by walking. Over time, you can build up your speed until you’re able to walk quickly, then jog, then finally run. 

What is chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidneys don’t work as well as they’re supposed to. It’s a long-term condition that develops over a long period of time and is almost impossible to detect at the beginning without a blood test. 

It mainly impacts your body’s ability to filter waste and fluids from the blood, but can also cause other health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and a heart attack.

What causes chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease is often caused by other conditions that put strain on the kidneys, such as:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Diabetes.
  • Kidney infections.
  • Glomerulonephritis (kidney inflammation).
  • Polycystic kidney disease.
  • Blockages in the flow of urine (e.g. from recurring kidney stones or an enlarged prostate).
  • long-term, frequent use of particular medicines like lithium and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

To minimise the risk of developing chronic kidney disease, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet is key. Conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can be caused by poor nutrition and an inactive lifestyle, so one of the first steps you can take to prevent kidney disease is to make sure you’re eating well and moving about often.

Kidney disease symptoms

As previously mentioned, there are normally no symptoms of kidney disease when it first develops. However, at a more advanced stage, kidney disease symptoms can include: 

  • Tiredness (fatigue).
  • Swollen ankles, feet or hands.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea (feeling sick). 
  • Blood in your urine. 

If you haven’t had a blood test in the last 6 months, we advise that you book a Fear Nothing Blood Test so you're up to date with how healthy your kidneys are. It’s delivered every 6 months so you can keep an eye on your kidney health (as well as your general health) over time. If there are any warning signs of kidney damage, the test can bring them to your attention so you can act on them effectively and confidently.

The bottom line 

Your kidneys play a vital role in keeping you healthy, as they filter your blood to remove waste and excess fluid. Your body heavily relies on them, so if they stop functioning as they should then this could lead to a toxic build-up of waste in your body.

The only way to check if your kidneys are working properly is to have a blood test. You can do this easily with a home blood test, which is a simple finger prick test that can give you reliable and accurate results from home. 

Regardless, it’s best to take care of your kidneys by eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water. Other things you can do to support your kidney health include quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, and cutting down on salty food.

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