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Quiz: What Do You Know About Your Kidneys?

Human kidneys clean 200 quarts of blood every day for decades on end, but most people don't give these hard-working organs much thought. We're more likely to worry about the filters in our cars than the ones in our bodies. Kidneys are too important -- and too vulnerable -- to take for granted. Millions of Americans are living with kidney disease, and many don't even know it. How much do you know about your kidneys? Take this short quiz to find out.

1. You need two healthy kidneys to lead a full, active life.

True

False

2. Which of these is NOT a common cause of kidney disease?

a. High blood pressure

b. Poorly managed diabetes

c. Over-the-counter painkillers

d. Moderate drinking

3. Kidney disease can progress for many years without causing any symptoms.

True

False

4. Which of these can be a sign of advanced kidney disease?

a. Nausea and vomiting

b. Urinating more often than usual

c. Urinating less often than usual

d. All of the above

5. Which of these is a good strategy for preventing the recurrence of kidney stones?

a. Drinking at least 12 cups of water every day

b. Avoiding red meat

c. Cutting back on rich foods

d. All of the above

6. A high-protein diet -- such as the Atkins diet -- can put extra strain on the kidneys.

True

False

7. If you have kidney disease, which of the following herbal supplements should you avoid?

a. Ginger

b. Bayberry

c. Ginseng

d. All of the above

Your Results

1. You need two healthy kidneys to lead a full, active life.

The correct answer is: False.

Healthy kidneys are far more efficient than they need to be. As many kidney donors know, you can lose one kidney completely without experiencing any problems. The serious trouble starts if your kidney function drops below 25 percent of normal.

2. Which of these is NOT a common cause of kidney disease?

The correct answer is: d. Moderate drinking.

Uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease. If you have either of these conditions, you'll have to work carefully with your doctor to protect your kidneys. Although occasional use of pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen won't harm most people, regular use over an extended period can result in kidney disease. People who binge drink, alcoholics, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions are especially at risk for developing kidney disease from over-the-counter pain relievers. Failing kidneys can make it more difficult for your body to handle many medications. If you have frequent kidney pain, check with your doctor before using alternative treatments to make sure your kidneys remain healthy. Heavy drinking can damage your kidneys as well as your liver, but a drink or two each day is unlikely to harm healthy kidneys.

3. Kidney disease can progress for many years without causing any symptoms.

The correct answer is: True.

Kidney damage is often first discovered through the blood and urine tests that are part of routine checkups.

4. Which of these can be a sign of advanced kidney disease?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above.

Other possible symptoms include fatigue, unexplained itching, swelling or numbness in the hands and feet, drowsiness, darkened skin, muscle cramps, and trouble concentrating.

5. Which of these is a good strategy for preventing the recurrence of kidney stones?

The correct answer is: a. Drinking at least 12 cups of water every day.

Water flushes out the kidneys and helps prevent kidney stones from forming. Fruit juice or lemon-lime sodas can also help, but water is best. Depending on the type of kidney stones you had, your doctor may also suggest dietary changes.

6. A high-protein diet -- such as the Atkins diet -- can put extra strain on the kidneys.

The correct answer is: True.

When you eat a steak or large amounts of protein, your kidneys have to work a little harder to clean your blood. Healthy kidneys can easily rise to the challenge, but a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that high-protein diets can damage already weakened kidneys. Before you go on the Atkins diet or any other high-protein diet, consider getting a checkup, including a urine test that can detect kidney damage. If you have any signs of kidney trouble, your doctor may advise you to go easy on proteins.

7. If you have kidney disease, which of the following herbal supplements should you avoid?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above.

If you have kidney disease, your body has a harder time clearing waste products, so herbal supplements that may be fine for people with healthy kidneys could be toxic for you. Some supplements may interact with prescription medications as well, so it's smart to check with your doctor before you take any over-the-counter medication -- including herbal supplements.

References

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Your Kidneys and how they work. July 2003.

Epstein M. Alcohol's impact on kidney function. Alcohol Health and Research World. 1997. 21(1): 84-90.

University of Maryland Medicine. Kidney stones. May 2003.

Knight EL et al. The impact of protein intake on renal function decline in women with normal renal function or mild renal insufficiency. Annals of Internal Medicine. March 18, 2003. 138(6):460-467.

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearninghouse. Analgesic Nephropathy (Painkillers and the Kidneys) March 2002.

National Kidney Foundation. Use of Herbal Supplements in Chronic Kidney Disease.

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