How Healthy Are Your Kidneys? UCLA Santa Monica Geriatrician Offers Tips

Sunday, 3 Mar 2013, 9:13:00 AM

Hong-Phuc Tran, M.D.

Hong-Phuc Tran, M.D.Special To The Mirror
Courtesy photo
Hong-Phuc Tran, M.D.Special To The Mirror

March is “National Kidney Awareness Month” to educate

the public about kidney disease and promote early detection to prevent kidney

failure and its complications. Are your kidneys healthy?

Kidney disease is

common in many of us as we get older, but we may not even know that we have it.

It is the 9th leading cause of death in the U.S. and affects more than 26

million Americans – one in nine adults.

Kidney Function

Our kidneys play many important roles, including

filtering wastes from the blood, regulating blood pressure and balancing fluid,

salt and acid in our body. They are vital in producing red-blood cells and

vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones.

Risk Factors

Who’s at risk? There are certain risk factors that

increase your likelihood of developing kidney disease, including:

• Diabetes mellitus.

• Hypertension (high blood pressure).

• Family history of kidney disease.

• Age 60 or older.

• Hispanic, African-American, Native American, or

Pacific Islander ancestry.

Diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure are the two

leading risk factors for kidney disease. If left uncontrolled, these conditions

can damage blood vessels in your kidneys and cause protein leakage into the


Symptoms of kidney disease include swelling in the legs

and ankles (edema), fatigue, nausea, unintentional weight loss, itchy skin,

muscle cramps, and confusion.


You can be screened for kidney disease by asking your

doctor to perform some blood and urine tests. These screenings include:

• Basic metabolic panel to assess your electrolytes and

kidney function.

• Urinalysis.

• Urine protein ratio tests.

• Estimated kidney filtration rate to assess how well

your kidneys remove waste from the blood.


There are certain things you can do to protect your

kidneys, beginning with getting your hypertension and diabetes mellitus under

good control. Avoiding certain painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen – or

products containing these medications – will also help with prevention.

However, if these painkillers are necessary, then try to limit their use to

one-two weeks. 

Kidney health is vital to your overall health. With a

few simple screenings and precautions, you can ensure your kidneys are working

to the best of their ability!

Dr. Hong-Phuc Tran

is a board-certified geriatrician with the highly regarded UCLA Geriatrics

Program in Santa Monica and Westwood. For more information, call 310.319.4371 or visit

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