Image of smiling Aboriginal man sitting on a couch with his leg crossed.

Kidney disease is the leading cause of hospitalisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The kidneys are a vital part of the body, removing waste from the system and keeping the body healthy and properly functioning.

"Our kidneys look after us, so it's only fair that we should return the favour and look after our kidneys."

During a study done in 2012-2013, it was reported that indicators of chronic kidney disease were found in almost one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 18. Despite this high number, many people with kidney disease aren't aware that anything is wrong, as the function of the kidneys can reduce by up to 90% before any signs or symptoms may begin to show.

What do the kidneys do?

The kidneys are responsible for many important jobs that help to keep our bodies healthy and properly functioning.

Kidneys act as a filter for the body

The kidneys are the primary filter in the body. They filter a large amount of blood every day and remove any waste in the form of urine, ensuring that only good things are kept inside your body.

Kidneys activate vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for maintaining strong bones. Having strong bones reduces the risk of your bones breaking and is especially important for the elderly community, as they are at greater risk of falls and conditions such as osteoporosis.

Vitamin D is also important for muscle and overall health.

Kidneys regulate blood pressure

The kidneys play an important role in keeping your blood pressure at the right level. If the kidneys aren’t properly functioning, it can cause your blood pressure to increase, which further damages your kidneys and can make you will feel unwell.

Kidneys regulate the balance of salt and water

Kidneys maintain the balance of salt and water in the body, which keeps you functioning for longer. If the kidneys aren’t properly functioning, having too much salt in the body can cause high blood pressure, swelling and difficulty breathing.   

Looking after your kidneys

While some people may be born with a kidney problem (congenital disease), many others attain kidney diseases from certain lifestyle choices. Knowing these lifestyle factors and being conscious of them can help to reduce the risk of kidney diseases. They can also help to slow down the disease if you are already sick with it.

Drink water

Make the choice to drink water when you are thirsty. This means saying no to juices and soft drinks that are high in sugar and opting to drink water instead. Having sugary drinks causes you to put on weight which is bad for your health and your kidneys.

Limit alcohol intake

Alcohol causes high blood pressure, which can make your kidneys sick. It is also linked to heart diseases and other conditions that are not good for you.

If you can, removing alcohol consumption completely is the best possible option.

Say no to smoking

If you smoke, consult your nearest health centre for assistance in quitting and they should be able to start you on a program. Your risk of getting a kidney disease increases if you smoke or chew tobacco.

Eat healthy foods

Eating healthy foods increases your kidney and overall health. Some healthy foods include fresh fruit, vegetables and bush tucker. When preparing the food, minimise the amount of salt you add as too much salt increases your blood pressure and is bad for your kidneys. Using herbs to flavor food is a great alternative to salt.

Getting your kidneys checked

Your local doctor is generally able to perform a kidney health check (they may refer you to a kidney specialist).

There are three kidney health checks that your doctor or kidney specialist may perform.

  • A blood pressure test
  • A blood test
  • A urine test

If you know that you have high blood pressure or diabetes, you should get a kidney health check on a yearly basis. If you don’t have either of these but have other risk factors (e.g. overweight) or are worried at all about the state of your kidneys, it is recommended that you get them checked every 2 years.

If you need assistance finding your nearest health centre, our IDEAS Information Officers are available from 8am to 8pm weekdays to take your call and help place you into contact with the relevant services.


Information sourced from:

Kidney Health Australia
Australian Bureau of Statistics
UC San Diego Health - YouTube Video

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people please be advised that there may be images, videos or names of people on this website that are deceased, which may cause feelings of sorrow or sadness.