Kidneys: how to keep yours healthy

Despite being critical for life around half of us don’t know what our kidneys do, where they are, 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 and we are supporting this locally.

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:

Your kidneys
  • 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.

The most important message about keeping your kidneys healthy is to stay hydrated. 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. Staying hydrated is important for kidneys to function optimally and dehydration can cause problems.

You can find out more about the campaign and Think Kidneys programme here