Kidneys are vital, and many people don’t realize how essential well-functioning kidneys are to their overall health. These small, bean-shaped organs perform several tasks, from filtering waste to producing necessary hormones. Most adults don’t usually think about their kidneys, but a few conditions can harm these organs, including cancer.
While kidney cancer isn’t a diagnosis anyone wants to receive, it’s usually treatable when caught in the early stages. Many patients live long, fulfilled lives after completing chemotherapy or radiation. Of course, preventing cancerous cells from growing in the first place is an even better solution. Here are some ways to help prevent this disease:
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Unhealthy people are more likely to develop cancer than those who take better care of their bodies. A healthy lifestyle starts with smart food choices. Everything that goes into the body gets filtered by the kidneys. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help these organs function at their peak.
What’s so great about these foods? All of them help aid in digestion. Those with an impaired digestive system often have kidney problems as well. Anything that’s high in fiber will improve gastrointestinal function. High-fiber foods also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, reducing the amount of waste filtered by the kidneys.
Some foods are harder on the kidneys than others. Anyone looking to improve their renal health should avoid saturated fats, high amounts of sodium, and sugar-laden treats. These substances may cause unwanted inflammation in the body, which can lead to a variety of health problems. While small amounts of these foods are generally safe, consuming too much makes the kidneys work overtime.
Get in Shape
Obesity is a primary risk factor for renal cancer. Being overweight doesn’t only affect how a person’s clothes fit, but it also causes harmful changes inside their body. Carrying excess weight, for example, can cause insulin resistance. If the body can no longer produce and process insulin effectively, blood sugar levels may spike to an unsafe range. Most people know this can cause type-2 diabetes, but uncontrolled blood sugar can also cause kidney damage.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is the best way to control blood sugar levels. Strive to exercise for about 30 minutes at least five days a week. Anything that increases the heart rate will encourage the muscles to consume more glucose. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t have to do intense interval training or run a marathon to stay healthy. Moderate cardio exercise, such as walking or riding a stationary bike, will suffice.
Millions of people in the United States smoke, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cool thing to do. Smoking is one of the worst things a person can do to their body. According to the CDC, smoking is a leading cause of about 480,000 preventable deaths annually. Inhaling these dangerous chemicals isn’t only bad for the lungs. Smoking actually negatively affects nearly every organ in the body, including the kidneys.
The chemicals found inside cigarettes are highly inflammatory. Nicotine isn’t just highly addictive. This dangerous chemical also activates white blood cells and increases inflammation throughout the body. If this inflammation reaches the kidneys, it can cause scarring in the glomeruli. Some people may even develop renal cancer as a result.
Anyone who smokes should stop immediately to prevent long-term health problems. However, many people find it hard to quit. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are medications and treatments available for those looking to overcome this addiction.
Monitor Blood Pressure
It’s commonly known that high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart disease or stroke, but it can also cause renal cancer. Healthy kidneys produce hormones that help regulate blood pressure. One such hormone is aldosterone. It controls water and salt levels in the body, which can positively affect blood pressure readings. However, if a person already has hypertension, the kidneys may not create enough of this hormone.
Hypertension affects about 1.28 billion adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The disease causes a variety of symptoms, including blurry vision, headaches, and shortness of breath. However, high blood pressure is also known as the silent killer. Since the disorder doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms, many people walk around unaware they have it. At-home blood pressure monitoring is vital to those at risk of developing hypertension.
Some people are at a higher risk of developing kidney disease or cancer because of genetics. The most common genetic conditions include Von Hippel-Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, succinate dehydrogenase complex syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis. However, inherited renal cancers account for a very small percentage of cases.
If someone has a family history of kidney disease or cancer, they may want to request genetic testing from their medical provider. This type of testing only requires a simple blood draw. While it’s impossible to change a person’s genes, knowing their risk factors will help at-risk individuals make better health decisions.
Regular Health Screenings
Diagnosing any type of cancer in the early stages often yields better outcomes. That’s why regular health screening and annual physicals are a must. During these appointments, doctors will ask about any symptoms or concerns that lead to a diagnosis. The doctor will order more specialized testing from a urology specialist if cancer is suspected, including a urinalysis, ultrasound, or biopsy. The goal is to catch and treat renal cancer before it can spread to other parts of the body.
The doctors at Atlantic Urology Clinics, LLC provide state-of-the-art urologic diagnostics and treatments to patients across South Carolina. Our facilities offer on-site radiology, laboratory testing, and surgery. Patients can expect the latest innovations in urinary tract care from our team of highly-educated and experienced specialists.