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It’s American Heart Month: Why That Matters to Your Kidneys

February 19, 2020 | By: Dr. Robert Larke

When it comes to beating certain diseases, the health of your heart very well may be shaped by the health of your kidneys – and everyday activities can have a big influence on that shape.

Research has shown that the conditions of our kidneys and hearts are closely linked. When either cannot function normally, it could lead to cardiovascular or kidney conditions, the National Kidney Foundation reports. As a result, diseases of either of these organs share many of the same risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

The reason is due to the ways the heart and kidneys work together. In recognition of February being American Heart Month, I will explain why and provide some tips for healthy kidneys that our hearts will love.

The Heart and Kidneys Deliver Our Life Blood

Think of the heart and kidneys as the filtration system of a well. The heart pumps blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the organs, muscles and other parts. However, the blood may contain waste such as uric acid, excess sodium, potassium and creatinine. This is where the kidneys take over.

Before the blood circulates throughout the body, the kidneys filter this waste out, along with excess water, to form urine. The kidneys also help control blood pressure and balance out minerals. The blood and waste then separate: The urine is carried to the bladder and the clean blood courses throughout our bodies.

Without the kidneys’ filtration system, the heart would have to try to clean the blood itself, and that would add a lot to its work load. So if the kidney is compromised, so is the heart – people with kidney disease are at greater risk of heart disease.

These 3 Tips Will Keep Your Kidneys, and Heart, Healthier

Think of your heart and kidneys working together right now. Your kidneys, positioned below your rib cage on either side of your spine, filter blood with every beat of your heart.

We do not have to play passive roles in this collaboration. These three lifestyle practices could improve kidney health and therefore its ability to clean blood, for a stronger heart and body.

  • Hit the bottle. Not alcohol or colas, but water and low-sugar drinks. This will help dilute minerals and salts in the urine that can contribute to kidney stones. Research has shown that patients with kidneys stones are 19% more likely to experience coronary heart disease. The National Kidney Foundation has further linked high blood pressure to kidney stones.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. High amounts of red meat and other animal proteins can lift the amount of uric acid in the body and contribute to the formation of stones. High sodium intake also is linked to kidney stones, because it increases the amount of calcium in urine, so read the labels. Even too much of some healthy foods – beets and spinach – can contribute to stone formation. Those who are susceptible should eat these foods in moderation.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking is a leading cause of kidney cancer as well as bladder cancer. The toxins in the smoke get into the blood stream, so the kidneys are exposed to them when they filter the blood. The bladder is then exposed to these toxins while it stores the urine (up to eight or nine hours among adults). Smoking also contributes to a range of heart issues including high blood pressure.

Lastly, all of us should pay close attention to how we feel overall. Kidney ailments could cause blood in the urine, pain in the side, and/or a frequent urge to pee. If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, contact your urologist. And don’t skip a beat.

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