"By the time you get symptoms, you might just be on the brink of kidney failure, and you don't even know it," says Greg Unger, "and those symptoms are similar to other diseases like poor energy, fatigue, less appetite, urinating less often, you might have swelling in your feet or your hands, it could be many things, but it could also be trouble with your kidneys."

Greg Unger is the Executive Director of the Manitoba chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. He says in the early stages of kidney disease, there really are no symptoms.  "People often don't get really, really sick with kidney disease until their kidney function is down to 10-15%.  And so, it happens somewhat silently," he adds.

It's sobering to think that our kidneys could be in distress without us realizing it. It's important to note that those who have a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease should be even more vigilant in getting tested for kidney disease through a urine test or blood test.

"It's possible to live with early stages of kidney disease for many years if you know you have it and you take certain steps," explains Unger. "So, your doctor might talk to you about a special diet, or lifestyle changes, or medications that can manage the effects of kidneys that aren't functioning as well as they could, and you can prevent the kidney from getting worse."

"Kidney damage can't be reversed," he adds. "But it can be slowed down, and that would be the important piece."

Often kidney disease can be a consequence of other conditions, he notes.

"So, we think of diabetes or high blood pressure, they are the things that you might already know you have, and they are going to have an impact eventually on your kidneys," explains Unger. "And so, your doctor may not be actually treating that issue of kidney disease, because you're actually treating something else."

Drinking water is so very important for the functioning of our entire body, our brain, our heart, our muscles, and our kidneys too!

However, when we say 'water' we mean 'WATER' not just liquids saturated with sugars, salts and preservatives.

"If there are drinks that have high contents of other things like all sorts of sugars, they are actually playing against the flushing of your system," he says. "It's all about water and reducing the salt and reducing the sugar in your diet no matter how that comes into your system."

"The reason why diabetes and high blood pressure and kidney function are all connected is that they're vascular diseases.  It's all about how your blood is able to move through your body, and those things create sticky blood. They create blockages that reduce the amount of blood that can get through your body the way it's supposed to.

"They're all connected.  It's all about being mindful. It's about educating yourself. It's all about leading a healthy lifestyle," he adds.

And so how do we know if we are in the early stages of kidney disease? Know your family history, and get tested,

Unger says we need to be proactive and that means to ask our doctor for routine screening for kidney problems.

Please listen to more with Greg Unger below and learn more on how to keep your kidneys healthy!

March is Kidney Awareness Month, and as we turn the calendar page to April let's remember to help our kidneys by being mindful of how much sugar and salt, fats and starches, we're consuming.  And to remember to drink lots of water to flush those kidneys regularly.