Despite being critical for life, around half of us in England don’t know what our kidneys do, where they are in our bodies, why we need them, how to keep them healthy and what happens when they go wrong. People generally know about their heart and lungs and how to keep them healthy by living a healthy lifestyle, but Think Kidneys research found they know very little, if anything about their kidneys. To address this the NHS Think Kidneys programme is running a national campaign to raise awareness. Kidney disease causes suffering and changes lives and can often be avoided if diagnosed early.
Our kidneys are amazing. Here are some facts about just how amazing
use about 25% of your energy and are the hardest working organs in your body
filter 180 litres of blood daily
produce about 1.5 litres of urine a day to get rid of toxins and waste products from the body
You can help your kidneys to work better by staying hydrated – drinking water, tea, coffee, soft drinks (not sugary), and some fluid comes from the food we eat.
If you don’t drink enough your kidneys have to work even harder and if you are unwell – say with diarrhoea and/or vomiting - you may have trouble taking enough fluid to stay hydrated and this could put your kidneys at risk by decreasing the effective blood flow to the kidneys.
Kidneys also have role in removing drugs that many people take for common conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. If you are unwell and are unable to drink enough fluid this can put you kidneys under pressure and can cause damage. Sometimes drugs need to be stopped for a short while to prevent this from happening. GPs and pharmacists can advise.
These facts form the basis of the messages the campaign would like to spread. Dr Sarah Jarvis will be talking about kidney health on the Jeremy Vine show on Monday 18 July at 1.00pm. GP surgeries and pharmacies across England will be displaying a series of posters to improve the awareness of kidneys, what they do and how to look after.
Michael Wise, kidney patient and member of the Think Kidneys team - “I knew what the kidneys did but until I had kidney failure I didn’t know how important they were. I had complete failure which caused constant nausea, sleepiness, itchy skin, fatigue and a feeling of being unwell. Dialysis and a kidney transplant are wonderful but my life would be easier with my own kidneys”.
The most important message about keeping your kidneys healthy is to stay hydrated. This is a difficult message to get across because there isn’t an agreed standard amount of water a person should drink in a day – it’s dependant on many factors – size, exercise and activity levels, other conditions etc. Generally dark and concentrated urine is a bad thing and means the individual is likely to be dehydrated, whereas pale, straw-coloured urine usually means the individual is sufficiently hydrated. But staying hydrated is important for kidneys to function optimally and dehydration can cause kidney problems.
All the Renal Units in England are aware of the campaign and will be able to support you with health care professionals and patients for interviews or comments on the topic. The Think Kidneys team also has a number of people around the country that would also be happy to be involved.
To order free posters and resources please visit www.thinkkidneys.nhs.uk
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