Preventing Chronic Kidney Disease
You are more likely to develop kidney disease if you have:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- a family history of kidney failure
What can you do to keep your kidneys healthy?
You can avoid or prevent kidney disease by managing or treating illnesses that are the major cause of kidney disease – high blood pressure, diabetes and untreated Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). The initial stages of kidney disease do not have any significant symptoms, so it is wise to get tested for kidney disease regularly especially if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.
The following are some tips to ensure your kidneys are healthy
Choose healthy foods
Select foods that are healthy for your heart and body. Add fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole-grains, and low-fat dairy products to your diet. Reduce your salt intake and foods that are high in added sugars because these can increase your chances of developing illnesses that can affect your kidneys. Try to restrict sodium (salt) intake by less than 2,300 milligrams per day, and have less than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars.
Tips for making healthy meals:
- Use a mix of spices rather than salt for adding taste in your meals
- Choose fresh, lean meats instead of processed meats like sausages, hot dogs, salami, salted meat, cured meat, corned beef, smoked meat, dried meat, beef jerky, canned meat, etc
- Bake, grill or broil meats instead of frying
- Choose foods with little or no added sugars
- Make it a habit to read food labels when doing your groceries, and choose foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
- Slowly change your milk from full cream to 2 percent or skim milk for drinking and cooking
- Include foods made from whole grains in your everyday diet, for example, whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and whole-grain corn
- Choose healthy snacks for eating in between meals, for example, eat fresh fruits instead of fruit juices (which may contain added sugars and preservatives).
- Maintain a diet log and record all the foods and beverages that you consume. Note the food weight, fluid ounces and what you feel during each meal. This will help you identify periods when you tend to overeat and why.
Make physical activity part of your routine. 30 minutes of exercise on three or more days per week can drastically improve your health and prevent many diseases. If you are suffering from other health conditions, ask your healthcare provider about the amount and types of physical exercise that you can safely introduce in your routine.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity is the leading cause of many illnesses, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, which can lead to chronic kidney disease. It is very important to maintain a healthy weight and avoid such disease. You can use online BMI tools to find out if you are within a healthy weight range.
If you are overweight or obese, work with your healthcare provider or dietician to develop a realistic weight loss program, and start making changes in your diet and include physical exercise to reduce your weight safely.
If you smoke or use tobacco products, STOP immediately. Smoking and tobacco use has been linked to many serious diseases. Ask your loved ones for help and contact your healthcare provider for advice on safe ways to lower and eventually stop your tobacco use.
Quit drinking Alcohol
Drinking alcohol can increase your blood pressure and add extra unhealthy calories which can lead to weight gain. It is also known that people can make unwise decisions (regarding diet and nutrition among other things) under the influence of alcohol.
Keep yourself properly Hydrated
Our bodies are mainly comprised of water, so it is extremely important to keep yourself well hydrated for all organs and biological systems to work optimally. Dehydration can cause lethargy, constipation, headaches and can cause an imbalance of electrolytes. Continued dehydration may lead to other serious medical complications. Early symptoms of dehydration may include thirst, dry mouth, lethargy, and dizziness.
Dehydration occurs when more water and fluids leave the body than enter it. Although water continually leaves our body through the actions of breathing, urinating, defecating, leading causes of intense dehydration can be vomiting, diarrhea and intense sweating. If any of these signs are present, fluid intake must be increased, and severe cases of dehydration must be referred to medical practitioners immediately.
It is important to choose healthy sources of rehydration like water, fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content (like watermelon, strawberries, oranges, cucumber, etc), electrolyte infused water and coconut water. Avoid unhealthy drinks like diuretics (tea and coffee), sodas and bottled juices with added sugar.
Learn to Manage Stress
Continued, unhealthy stress has been linked to causing depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other emotional and symptoms that may be detrimental to your overall health. Other than that stress has also been linked to physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain and problems with sleep. If managed, these symptoms can lead to other serious illnesses.
Therefore it is critical to managing stress in your personal and work lives to lead happier, rich and fulfilling lives. Here are some ways you can manage stress:
- Keep a positive attitude towards life
- Accept that there may be negative events in life that you have no control over
- Learn and practice regularly relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, stretching, meditation, and yoga to manage stress
- Make physical activity and exercise a daily part of your routine. Physical activity is one of the best ways to manage stress.
- Make healthy eating choices
- Learn to manage your time effectively
- Express your self with creative hobbies and art
- Set appropriate limits with others and learn to set your own health as a priority – you can only help others if you yourself are well taken care of.
- Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
- Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.
- Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you enjoy. Develop meaning relationships with those who matter, and learn to cut off those people from your life who are a negative influence.
- Seek treatment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to learn healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life.
- If you haven’t already, consider learning about and practicing your faith seriously. It has been proven in many cases that people suffering from stress see a positive result when they revert back to their faith and learn to rely on a Greater Power.
Manage diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease
If you are suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, the best way to keep your kidneys healthy is:
Maintain your blood glucose levels close to your targets.
Check and record your blood glucose levels regularly and stick to your prescribed diet and medication
Manage your blood pressure.
Avoid foods and other factors that may increase your blood pressure. If you are prescribed medicines to control blood pressure, talk to your doctor about blood pressure medication that will protect your kidneys.
Avoid over the counter and other medications that may cause harm to your kidneys.
Keep your cholesterol levels in check.
LDL and HDL are two types of cholesterol in your blood. While HDL is “good” cholesterol that helps in unclogging your blood vessels, LDL is “bad” cholesterol which may clog your arteries and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Learn to choose foods high in HDL and low in LDL. If you suffer from high cholesterol, take regular blood tests to measure your LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, and consult regularly with your healthcare provider.
Ask your health care provider questions
Ask your health care provider the following key questions about your kidney health during your next medical visit. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help protect your kidneys.
Key questions for your health care provider:
- What is my glomerular filtration rate (GFR)?
- What is my urine albumin result?
- What is my blood pressure?
- What is my blood glucose (for people with diabetes)?
- How often should I get my kidneys checked?
Other important questions:
- What should I do to keep my kidneys healthy?
- Do I need to be taking different medicines?
- Should I be more physically active?
- What kind of physical activity can I do?
- What can I eat?
- Am I at a healthy weight?
- Do I need to talk with a dietitian to get help with meal planning?
- Should I be taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs for my kidneys?
- What happens if I have kidney disease?