By Tomlin Paul
When you pass your urine, you are seeing the results of a complex organ which plays a big role in keeping the inside workings of our bodies stable. In making urine, your kidneys are doing a lot to help keep the following in check:
Each kidney is about the size of your fist, and on its inside there are approximately one million tiny units called nephrons. These are the micro-filters that do the real work. Every hour your blood supply circulates through the kidneys about 12 times. Each day your kidneys process around 200 litres of blood, with one to two litres of waste leaving the body as urine.
The ageing kidney & disease
As you get older, you do lose some of your filtering units, and the blood vessels supplying the kidneys can become a bit tough, causing filtering of the blood to slow down a bit. However, decline in kidney function with normal ageing is slow and is not usually a big problem.
The real issue is this! The chronic diseases of diabetes and hypertension show themselves more commonly after 50, and left alone are waiting to take a serious toll on your kidneys. Although they can be affected by infections, stones, major trauma, cancer and conditions such as lupus, big threats to your kidneys in the 50s and beyond are uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension. Kidney failure, as a result, is a growing problem in the Caribbean.
The Cinderella story
In the seventh edition of Grimms' Fairy Tales, Cinderella is a kitchen maid having 'to do hard work from morning until evening, get up before daybreak, carry water, make the fires, cook, and wash'.
In her discovery by the prince, searching for his beautiful dancing partner, 'she sat down on a stool, pulled her foot out of the heavy wooden shoe, and put it into the slipper, and it fitted her perfectly'. What a discovery!
Although your kidneys are way to the back and not often in the forefront of your mind, I hope you can rediscover them and see that they fit perfectly in the 'silver slipper'. They are the beautiful organs that have been dancing with you for the past 50 years and more. Give them the chance today to live happily ever after!
Getting checked, getting treated and getting serious about lifestyle interventions to prevent and control diabetes and hypertension are key investments to protect your two million nephrons!
Dr Tomlin Paul is a family physician at Health Plus Associates in Kingston; email: email@example.com.