KIDNEY disease is a serious condition that affects 1 in 10 Canadians, and has no cure.

March is Kidney Health Month and the focus this year is on prevention and the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle to help promote good kidney health.

“Kidneys are as important to your health as your heart or your lungs yet many people are not aware of the essential role these vital organs play in our body,” says Dr. Mike Bevilacqua, nephrologist.

“Kidneys essentially do three main jobs: removing waste, regulating water, and producing key hormones.”

Kidney disease occurs when kidney damage is present or there is decreased kidney function for a period of three months or more. When this occurs, kidneys can longer do their important work.

“Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease, however, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help control or manage blood pressure and blood sugar levels which in turn can help protect your kidneys,” notes Bevilacqua. “Since most people living with kidney disease often show no symptoms in the early stages, it is important for those at risk, including those with diabetes and high blood pressure, to talk to their doctor about being screened for kidney disease.”

Some simple tips to keep the kidneys healthy:

* Eat a healthy diet: The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is based on eating foods rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts and 1% milk products. It is also low in sodium and saturated fat. This eating plan can also lower your blood pressure.

* Reduce your salt intake: This may also help prevent diabetes and other conditions associated with Chronic Kidney Disease. The recommended sodium intake for adults is not more than 2,300 mg per day (around a teaspoon). To help reduce your salt intake, try to limit the amount of processed food or do not add salt to food.

* Do not smoke: Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it impairs their ability to function properly.

* Keep fit and active: Aim for 150 minutes (30 minutes 5 times a week). This will help maintain a healthy weight which can help you control both blood sugar and blood pressure.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC & Yukon Branch exists to help prevent kidney disease or delay the onset. It also provides support services for patients who have chronic kidney disease and are on dialysis and promotes organ donation to increase kidney transplant rates. It is here to help each and every kidney patient until there is a cure.