March is Kidney Health Month
Dr. Scott Brimble, a nephrologist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, explains why kidney health is so important and what is chronic kidney disease (CKD).
CKD is the presence of kidney damage, or a decreased level of kidney function, for a period of three months or more. Kidney disease can range from mild to severe and in some cases, lead to kidney failure.
Kidney disease affects 1 in 10 Canadians, including 11,100 Ontarians who are receiving dialysis as a renal replacement therapy and 15,000 who require pre-dialysis care. The prevalence has increased in recent years and will likely continue to do so as our population ages.
- Kidneys regulate water:
For your body to work properly, it must contain just the right amount of water. One of the important jobs of the kidneys is to remove excess water from the body or to retain water when the body needs more.
- Kidneys remove waste products and help to balance the body’s minerals:
Many of the substances in the blood and other body fluids must be kept at the correct level for the body to function properly. For example, sodium (salt) and potassium are minerals that come from food. The body needs these minerals for good health, but they must be kept at certain levels. When the kidneys are working properly, extra minerals, such as sodium and potassium, leave your body in the urine. The kidneys also help to adjust the levels of other minerals, such as calcium and phosphate (which are important for bone strength, growth and other functions).
Your kidneys help remove waste products, such as urea and creatinine, from your body. Urea and other wastes are made when the body breaks down protein, such as meat. Creatinine is a waste product of the muscles. As kidney function decreases, the levels of urea and creatinine in the blood increase. The creatinine level in the blood is a very useful measure of kidney function. It is measured by a simple blood test.
- Kidneys produce hormones:
Normal kidneys also make important chemicals in your body called hormones. These hormones circulate in the bloodstream like “messengers” and regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production and the calcium balance in your body.