Fast facts about your kidneys

March 10, 2015 Providence Health Team

Fast facts about your kidneysRelaxation? Your kidneys don’t know the meaning of the word. They’re most definitely your body’s “Type A,” non-stop workhorses. And, that’s a good thing, because without them, we couldn’t survive. 

Check out some intriguing facts about these fascinating, complex and indispensable mighty mites: 

You’re born with two – but need just one 

The typical person is born with two kidneys. That’s good news – especially if a family member develops poor kidney function. If you have a healthy pair, you can donate your spare to a family member – or even a stranger, for that matter – and survive quite nicely. 

They’re your body’s hardworking filter 

Your kidneys are remarkable workers. They never take a break. They filter impurities from your bloodstream, which are passed through the bladder and into the urine. Your body’s total blood supply circulates through them about 12 times each hour. That’s about 2 gallons of blood coursing through the little bean-shaped organs in just one hour, or about 200 quarts a day. The end result of their work is about 2 quarts of urine produced each day. 

They balance your blood levels 

Kidneys play a role in balancing the levels of electrolytes, acid, sugars, proteins, sodium and potassium in your blood. Without them, your bodily organs will fail within a day or two unless you’re placed on a dialysis machine. 

Not getting enough oxygen? Your kidneys to the rescue!

If they sense your body’s not getting sufficient oxygen, your kidneys produce a hormone that triggers more production of red blood cells. In turn, those cells carry more oxygen into the bloodstream. 

Kidneys also add needed hormones 

Your kidneys deposit three critical hormones into the blood stream:

  • Erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood-cell production
  • Calcitriol, a vitamin C variation that strengthens the skeletal system
  • Renin, which helps regulate blood pressure 

Your kidneys also activate vitamin D, which is beneficial to your bones. 

They’re small, but complex 

Sizing up your kidneys? Each one is about the shape of a computer mouse. They account for less than 1 percent of your body’s weight, yet contain 140 miles of tubes and millions of microscopic filters called nephrons. And within those are small blood vessels – called glomerulus – that do the dirty work of filtering impurities from the bloodstream. 

Want to learn more? 

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