March is National Kidney Month and March 13 is World Kidney Day. In honor of these observances, it’s a good time to review the basics about kidney health, including kidney stones. According to the National Kidney Foundation:
- 1 in 10 Americans will have a kidney stone during his or her lifetime.
- Each year, more than half a million people visit emergency rooms for kidney stone problems.
- Men are much more likely than women to develop kidney stones.
Kidney stones form when certain chemicals become concentrated in the urine and form crystals. The crystals grow into larger masses (stones), which can get into the urinary tract. If a stone gets stuck and blocks the flow of urine, it causes pain.
You can reduce the risk of kidney stones by:
- Drinking plenty of water. Drinking extra water dilutes the substances in urine that lead to stones. Try to drink enough fluids to pass two liters of urine a day, which is roughly eight standard 8-ounce cups.
- Reducing sodium intake. Too much sodium in the diet can trigger kidney stones. Current guidelines suggest limiting total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. If you have a history of kidney stones, try to reduce daily intake to 1,500 mg.
- Limiting animal protein. Eating too much red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood can boost the level of uric acid and lead to kidney stones. A diet high in protein also reduces levels of citrate, the chemical in urine that helps prevent stones from forming.
- Continuing to get the calcium you need. Calcium in food does not affect the risk of kidney stones; in fact, too little can help cause them. Eat calcium-rich foods unless your doctor advises otherwise. Ask your doctor before taking calcium supplements, as these have been linked to increased risk of kidney stones.
Consult with your doctor for resources to meet your specific needs and help you develop a plan that reduces your risk of kidney stones.
The Urology Group offers lithotripsy treatment for kidney stones.