Get to know your kidneys

Get to know your kidneys

Kidneys help regulate chemicals in the body, removing wastes and processing blood, but chronic kidney disease, which affects at least 26 million Americans, can sabotage kidney function and lead to organ failure, even death.

Dr. Leslie Spry, a spokesman for the National Kidney Foundation, says 1 in 5 diabetics will develop kidney disease in their lifetime. Diabetics generally face more complications: "50 percent of diabetics on dialysis die within five  years," he says.

The only true fix when a kidney fails is receiving another kidney, Spry says. But because demand exceeds supply, only about 7 or 8 percent of people on dialysis undergo transplantation, he says. More than 80,000 are waiting for a kidney, according to a national transplant database.

Those at high risk of developing kidney disease — including people with high blood pressure, a family history, ethnic minorities and anyone over 65 — should be especially vigilant, eat right, exercise and see the doctor regularly, says Dr. Julie Tank, a highly rated nephrologist at Northwest Renal Clinic in Portland, Ore.

The Kidney Foundation recommends adults at high risk get an annual urine test and a blood test to check kidney function, which should typically be 90 percent or better. ñItÍs important to intervene early," Tank says.


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