National Kidney monthMarch is National Kidney Month, a time to get to know your hard-working kidneys and all that they do for your body. Unfortunately, 31 million people in the United States, or 10 percent of the adult population, has chronic kidney disease. Kidney disease is also the 9th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep your kidneys healthy and prevent long-term damage. Below we share five important things to know about the kidneys.

1. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney failure.

Diabetes causes 44 percent of new cases of kidney failure, and high blood pressure causes 28.4 percent. The reason for this is that high blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys, causing them to be less efficient.

Many people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure, which also affects the kidneys. The kidneys filter waste and extra fluids from the body, but they need the blood vessels to do so. Over time, these vessels can become damaged from high blood pressure, affecting how much blood goes to the kidneys.

2. Having kidney disease affects the whole body.

When the kidneys are unable to work properly, they can lead to other problems in the body. If you have kidney disease, it’s imperative that you take care of your health to prevent further problems. Some of the most common complications include:

  • Anemia
  • Nerve damage
  • Heart attack
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke

3. Signs and symptoms of kidney disease often develop slowly.

Typically, kidney disease shows up slowly, and the initial symptoms can be attributed to other health problems. Common symptoms include fatigue, high blood pressure, reduced urine, increased thirst and swelling. However, some people have no symptoms at all. Fortunately, your doctor can do some very simple tests to check for kidney problems.

4. The kidneys do more than filter out waste.

The kidneys are known for filtering waste and fluids from the body, but they can do many other things. This is why kidney disease can have such a big impact on the body. The kidneys are responsible for:

  • Regulating fluid levels
  • Balancing blood minerals
  • Maintaining blood pressure
  • Activating Vitamin D
  • Directing the production of red blood cells

5. Keeping your kidneys healthy is in your control.

Because most cases of kidney disease are caused by diabetes and high blood pressure, it is possible to lower your risk for these conditions and their complications. In support of Kidney Month, be sure that you are caring for your kidneys by keeping fit and active, managing your blood sugar levels, monitoring your blood pressure and drinking plenty of water. Also, limit your intake of over-the-counter medications.

To learn more about managing diabetes, eating healthy and lowering your risk for kidney disease, check out this video from Doctor’s Choice.