You may not know that March is National Kidney Month. You may also be unaware of what, exactly, your kidneys are doing to keep you alive. Here are some of the top 5 jobs healthy kidneys perform, and why you should take care of these vital organs.

1. Remove wastes and extra fluid

Think of your kidneys as a filter. Every 30 minutes, they filter all of your blood. Through this process they remove wastes and extra fluid. The kidneys then turn all that waste and fluid into urine. Without this vital filtering function, the buildup of toxins and fluid would make life impossible.

2. Control blood pressure

Your kidneys need pressure to work properly and kidneys produce the hormones that regulate blood pressure. Kidneys can ask for higher pressure if it seems too low, or try to lower pressure if it seems too high by controlling fluid levels and making the hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict.

However, high blood pressure can damage the kidneys and may be a sign that you have chronic kidney disease. We recommend that anyone with high blood pressure get their kidneys checked annually.

3. Make red blood cells

Your kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin, which tells bone marrow to make red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying the oxygen from your lungs to the rest of the body.

4. Keep bones healthy

You may get vitamin D from the sun, but your body couldn’t use it without the kidneys. The kidneys activate vitamin D so your body can absorb calcium and phosphorus. These are two crucial minerals for making bones strong.

5. Control pH Levels

Protein in the diet is also broken down into acids. Your kidneys maintain a healthy balance of your acid levels. Your kidneys balance the pH of your body by either removing or adjusting the right amounts of acid and buffering agents.