Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about the health of our kidneys. But there are many things that can increase our chances of having kidney problems. These include health conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol; unhealthy habits, like smoking; the use of certain medicines over the long term; and even genetics.

March is National Kidney Month. So there’s no better time than now to start thinking about things you can do to keep your kidneys in tip-top shape.

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs found on either side of your spine just under your rib cage. Each is about the size of your fist. Kidneys remove waste products that build up in your blood. Waste products filtered through the kidneys become urine. If the kidneys shut down or don’t work the way they should, your body is not able to get rid of these waste products. Sooner or later, a buildup of waste can harm the body.

Most factors that lead to kidney problems are within your control. The two most common are diabetes (high blood sugar) and hypertension (high blood pressure).

To manage diabetes, be sure to control your blood sugar, eat a healthy diet, and get plenty of exercise. Shoot for 30 minutes of activity at least five days a week. To help bring down high blood pressure, adopt some of these healthy habits:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight. (Even losing just a few pounds may help drop your blood pressure.)
  • Try to limit your salt intake.
  • Cut back on alcohol if you drink.
  • Add more fruits and veggies.
  • Find healthy ways to relieve stress.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any of the risk factors for kidney problems. Your kidneys are worth protecting.