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Back to [Kidney] Basics: From Disease to Donation and Transplant

For the most part, everyone is born with two healthy functioning kidneys. Most people don’t think about their kidneys on a daily basis, but for those with kidney disease or kidney transplant recipients, those two small bean-shaped organs are very important. The National Kidney Foundation or NKF is joining us during National Kidney Month to talk about kidney basics – from disease to donation and transplantation.

What You Should Know About Kidney Disease?

Kidneys work as the body’s chemical purifier, filtering waste from 150 quarts of blood a day and performing vital functions that help direct red blood cell production and regulate blood pressure. Over time, the kidneys can become damaged.

In the United States, 33% of adults are at risk for kidney disease. That’s one in every three people. Let that number sink in for a minute. It’s huge! But while the magnitude of that number is very real, when you stop and consider it, its implications are lost on most people.

NKF encourages Americans to always keep the statistics of kidney disease in mind and work to change the numbers. By inviting friends and family to take NKF’s one-minute Kidney Risk Quiz , you can see if you are at risk for developing kidney disease.

Everyone needs to know about their risk for kidney disease, but especially if you have any one of the five risk factors –

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • family history of kidney disease

It’s also important to know that most people in the early stages of kidney disease don’t have any symptoms. They may not know that anything is wrong; however, young or old, kidney disease can affect anyone. Early diagnosis is key.

How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

Knowing you’re at risk is the first step towards living a healthier life, so find out where you stand with the Kidney Risk Quiz or by talking with your doctor. There are also a few simple steps you can take to help protect your kidneys, including reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet. Here are nine easy things everyone should do for their kidney health:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Control weight
  • Follow a balanced diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink only in moderation
  • Stay hydrated
  • Monitor cholesterol levels
  • Get an annual physical
  • Know your family medical history

What if Disease Leads to Needing a Transplant?kidney-donation-and-transplant-waitlist-statistics

In Colorado and Wyoming, there are nearly 2,000 people on the waiting list for lifesaving organ transplants – and nearly 85% of those are waiting for a kidney. Kidneys are the most transplanted organ and the average time a patient spends on the waiting list is 3-5 years. While waiting, many with acute kidney disease will need to undergo dialysis. Dialysis is a process that keeps your body in balance by removing waste, keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in your blood, and helping to control blood pressure.

The next step, depending on the severity of your kidney disease and after consulting your doctor or kidney specialist, is transplant. There are two types of kidney donation available to those placed on the organ transplant waiting list – deceased donation and living donation.

Types of Kidney Donation & How You Can Help

The kidneys are one of several organs that a living donor can give – allowing good Samaritans to make a huge impact through living organ donation while they are still alive.

“NKF has programs that can help those in need of a kidney transplant learn more about how to find a living kidney donor. The entire process is very powerful, and we have seen people’s lives positively transform due to their kidney transplant!” said Danielle Percival, NKF Program Coordinator.

Learn more about living donation by connecting with your local transplant center.

While living donation is one way to help, not everyone can be a living donor. However, everyone can help by saying Yes to organ, eye and tissue donation after death. One thing you and your family can all do to help right away is be sure you are signed up as an organ, eye and tissue donor. Just take a look at your driver license or ID and, if you have the heart you’re good go go. If not, sign up by visiting Donate Life Colorado or Donate Life Wyoming.

Remember, don’t rule yourself out. Anyone can sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, and even transplant candidates and recipients can potentially become donors. 

And, when it comes to your kidneys, determine your disease risk, take steps to stay healthy and discuss donation and transplant options with your healthcare team and family.