In honor of World Kidney Day, Vetri Community Partnership’s Community Dietitian, Tara Bledsoe MS, RDN, LDN, talked to us about us kidney health and nutrition!

On this World Kidney Day, let’s talk about the many important functions of our kidneys and what we can do to help keep them healthy. The kidneys are found in the lower abdominal region, one on each side of the spine, below your ribs and against your back muscles. These bean-shaped organs are each about the size of a fist.

The kidneys are a part of the urinary system, and their primary function is to filter the blood. Waste and extra water are removed from the blood, making urine, which then moves from your kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. Filtered blood, which includes water, minerals and other nutrients the body needs, is returned to the circulatory system. In this way, the kidneys help to maintain a healthy balance of water and important minerals, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus in our blood. Other important kidney functions include maintaining stable pH levels in the body, releasing hormones that help regulate blood pressure, and playing a role in the body’s production of red blood cells.

A variety of diseases and disorders can cause kidney damage and a deterioration of kidney function. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition where damage to the kidneys occurs slowly over time, causing the kidneys to gradually lose function. Uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes are the most common causes of CKD.

When it comes to kidney disease prevention, the good news is that following advice to lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease also helps to lower your risk for kidney disease. This includes focusing on getting lots of vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables, upping your fiber intake by including whole grains every day, drinking water to maintain appropriate hydration levels, staying below 2300 mg of sodium per day, eating more unsaturated fat and less saturated fat, and limiting the amount of added sugar eaten every day. Being physically active, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress will also help to keep your kidneys healthy.