Organ donation helps improve lives.

According to the Living Kidney Donor Network, there are approximately 100,000 people in need of a kidney transplant at any given time, and the number of Americans with chronic kidney disease is on the rise. Some experts like Dr. Josef Coresh, a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, point to increases in diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity as the culprit.

Yet, that's not always the case, and that shouldn't deter donors – especially living ones – from donating. Typically, kidneys from living donors work up to 10 years longer than kidneys received from deceased donors.

Regardless of the cause, if you're fortunate enough to receive a kidney donation, here's what you need to know:

Many of those who receive a donation feel like they've got a second chance at life, and that's a great thing because, if that's you, you're more likely to take care of yourself. If you were on dialysis before receiving your donation, you will most likely have to continue to eat healthily – avoiding fat, salt, and cholesterol – so that you can maintain your blood pressure, but you should be able to eat more of your favorite foods. And if you have diabetes, you'll still need to monitor your blood sugar. 

You'll also need to take special care of yourself while you're on immunosuppressants. That means getting plenty of sleep, avoiding alcohol, and keeping your distance from people who are sick. You're more prone to infection, but you're less likely to reject your new kidney.

*It is imperative that you take your medication exactly as it's intended. If you're struggling with side effects, call your doctor. Any lapse in dosage could result in acute or chronic rejection.*

As always, work closely with your doctor and don't hesitate to ask about travel, work, exercise, diet, and more. If you notice that you're not feeling well, you should call your doctor immediately. And despite all of the aforementioned changes, recipients often have a much better quality of life post-transplant, so if you're thinking of donating, do it!

How to donate a kidney to a stranger.