You Probably Don’t Think About This Body Part Much, But Its Health is Vital

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When you have hunger pangs, you think of your stomach. If you’re anxious or scared, you notice your heart beating faster. But when’s the last time you thought about your kidneys?

They’re organs that the average person probably should pay attention to more often — and not just in March, when it’s National Kidney Month. Symptoms of kidney disease usually don’t show up until the advanced stages, so it’s important to practice good kidney health.

About 30 million adults in the United States live with chronic kidney disease, and nearly 500,000 people rely on regular dialysis to keep their bodies functioning after their kidneys have failed.

African-Americans have long been known to experience an increased risk for kidney disease, but in 2012, a study came out that also linked income levels to that risk.

The study showed blacks making less than $20,000 were more than three times as likely to have excessive levels of protein in their urine — an indicator of chronic kidney disease — as those with incomes over $75,000. Blacks earning between $20,000 and $35,000 were found to have twice the risk of developing kidney disease as higher-income blacks.

The same trend was not seen among white Americans.

Steps to Prevention

Preventative measures can go a long way toward making sure your kidneys — and the rest of your body — are at their optimum health.

The kidneys are vital because they filter out waste and extra fluid and perform other important functions such as regulating blood pressure, stimulating red blood-cell production and helping keep bones strong.

These recommendations from the American Kidney Fund and the National Kidney Foundation can keep you from incurring medical expenses later without breaking the bank now.

1. Eat healthy

The American Kidney Fund recommends a low-salt, low-fat diet.

This post shares tips on how to score healthy food on a low budget even if you rely on food stamps to supplement your grocery shopping.

2. Exercise

The American Kidney Fund recommends exercising 30 minutes a day most days of the week. You don’t have to join a gym to get your workout in.

This post highlights inexpensive alternatives to signing up for a gym membership. Or, you can check out these YouTube channels that’ll guide your workout and let you skip hiring a trainer.

This post will give you inspiration to create a home gym less than $100 that’ll make it easier for you to get in those 30 minutes a day.

3. Lower stress levels

The National Kidney Foundation says too much stress can damage your kidneys.

Healthy eating and regular exercise can help you manage your stress, but other actions like practicing mindfulness, practicing yoga, getting enough sleep and talking to a mental health professional can also lower stress levels.

4. See your doctor

It’s important to get regular checkups. But if you have risk factors for kidney disease (like high blood pressure, diabetes, being older than 60 or having a family history), you may want to seek out health screenings.

The American Kidney Fund provides free health screenings at various locations throughout the year. The National Kidney Foundation also hosts KEEP Healthy events that provide free resources and checkups.

5. Quit smoking and limit alcohol

There are a number of free resources available to help you quit smoking. Quitting smoking and cutting back on drinking can even save you money to invest back into caring for your health.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.