NHS England encourages people to Think Kidneys on World Kidney Day

Lack of knowledge about our kidneys could lead to rise in unnecessary deaths due to acute kidney injury (AKI).

Research by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Think Kidneys reveals a major lack of knowledge about the function and care of human kidneys, the hardest working organs in our body, amongst the public.

Kidney health specialists warn that people are more likely to die unnecessarily if they don’t ‘think kidneys’.

Think Kidneys is a NHS initiative to improve the care of people at risk of, or with, acute kidney injury.

Up to 100,000 deaths a year in the UK are associated with acute kidney injury, a condition caused by undue stress on the kidneys. It is believed that a third of these deaths could be prevented, but this will be hampered by people’s lack of awareness of the function of their kidneys and knowing when to ask for medical advice.

Ipsos MORI’s research among 2,005 residents of Great Britain aged 15+ between July 4 and 14 2014 is believed to be the first of its kind and shows that:

  • About half the population (49%) are not aware their kidneys produce urine, with younger people less likely to know than older people
  • While more people believe that their kidneys help remove waste from their bodies (60%), less are likely to understand they have a role in managing the body’s chemical balance (24%) and processing medicines (12%)
  • Nearly one in 10 participants (8%) thought incorrectly the kidneys pumped blood and fluids around the body, while very few (3%) recognised the kidneys’ role in maintaining the health of bones
  • One in 14 of all participants (7%) claimed to have no knowledge of kidney function at all.

Richard Fluck, National Clinical Director for Renal for NHS England, and the national programme director of Think Kidneys, NHS England’s acute kidney injury national joint programme with the UK Renal Registry, said. “The research shows us that people, generally speaking, don’t appreciate the importance of their kidneys, the hardest working organs in our bodies. Looking after your kidneys by understanding how they work, what may damage them and how to keep them healthy, will help prevent some of the more serious kidney conditions, such as acute kidney injury, which can be life-threatening, or lead to the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. We are using World Kidney Day as an opportunity to call for increased understanding of kidney function and health to prevent unnecessary suffering and premature death.”

There are simple things you can do to keep your kidneys healthy:

  • Not smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Exercising regularly
  • Have a healthy diet by eating fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Eating fish, cutting down on red meat, processed food and soft drinks
  • Keeping the weight down
  • And if you take regular medication ask your pharmacist how it may affect your kidneys

Advice on keeping your kidneys healthy can be found at NHS Choices.

Ipsos MORI’s research revealed a lack of awareness of acute kidney injury, with just 31% of participants claiming to be aware of the condition, yet when asked what they thought it was, just one in four (27%) of those people selected the correct definition of four potential definitions given.

Older people are more likely to suffer from AKI and the research identifies that they are less likely than younger people to be aware of the condition and also the importance of their kidneys in processing medication that they are taking.

“Older people especially should keep hydrated, take regular exercise where possible and eat a balanced diet. If you’re unwell, you should think about your kidneys and ask your pharmacist or doctor whether you should continue your regime of medication.” added Richard Fluck.

The full findings of the research has been published on the Think Kidneys website.