March is Kidney Awareness Month — Facts You Might Not Know, Tests to Consider
Kidneys are the body’s maintenance heroes. Masters at filtration, kidneys not only remove wastes and toxins, but also regulate vitamin and mineral levels. Less recognized is their versatility, as kidneys also help control blood pressure and red blood cell production. These organs are so important our bodies were designed with two!
Like most systems, however, a kidney’s health can be impacted in a number of ways. The most common dangers include high blood pressure, which damage the tiny blood vessels that perform the filtering function (called nephrons), high blood sugar (diabetes) and cardiovascular disease.
To raise awareness of the critical role of kidney’s to overall health during Kidney Awareness Month (March), consider the following tests, many times included as part of annual checkups. My recent results included in images.
Urinalysis. Often used to diagnose a urinary tract or kidney infection, or evaluate the causes of kidney failure and track the progression of diabetes and high blood pressure, a urinalysis is generally part of routine health screening.
Complete Blood Count (CBC). A CBC measures cells in your blood including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, and is used to detect infections or risk of infections, particularly when a patient is taking immune suppressing or other medications. A CBC is often included as part of a routine annual exam. When a detailed analysis of white blood cells is needed, a “CBC with Differential” is ordered.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP). A CMP provides a snapshot of your body chemistry and energy conversion. It measures sugar (glucose) levels, electrolyte and fluid balance, and kidney and liver function. Electrolytes help with fluid balance, heart rhythm, muscle contraction and brain function. Similar to a CBC, a CMP is often included as part of a routine annual exam and when monitoring the progression of chronic conditions or taking medications known to impair kidney or liver function.
Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR). This test is used to check how well the kidneys are working, specifically how much blood passes through the glomeruli, the tiny filters that remove waste from the blood, each minute. The GFR is an estimate based on a formula that includes age, ethnicity, gender, height and weight, including information contained in the blood.
While this is not a comprehensive list of tests for kidney function, nor detailed discussion, these tests will provide you and your care provider a snap-shot of how your kidneys are functioning and whether more testing is required.
Links to other blood test-related posts:
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About Aaron Benway, CFP, EA — Aaron is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)and IRS Enrolled Agent (EA). He co-founded HSA Coach, a digital tool to educate consumers on HSAs, track health expenses and other documents, and provide individual financial calculators, to help consumers get the most from their HSA and other savings. To help individuals directly with their financial planning and wealth management requirements he founded AB Financial Planning.
Prior to HSA Coach Aaron was the CFO of HelloWallet, a financial wellness software startup purchased by investment research firm Morningstar. Earlier in his career Aaron was an investor at The Carlyle Group and a nuclear engineer in the US Navy. Aaron has an Electrical Engineering degree from the US Naval Academy and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Aaron lives in the Washington DC area with his wife and two children.