The kidneys are vital to your body’s ability to process and remove waste, and keeping them healthy is important for your body’s long term health as well. Complications in the kidneys can affect other organs or tissues, and in some severe cases, they can be fatal.
Protecting the kidneys and keeping them healthy is something you have a lot of control over. There are several elements of kidney health and disease prevention that are affected by your daily habits.
The first step? Learn about your kidneys and what keeps them healthy. A knowledge of the basic facts, risk factors and symptoms that accompany kidney disease will put you in a position to be more proactive with your kidney health.
Know Your Risk
People in any of the following groups or categories may be at a higher risk for kidney disease than others (the top four are the most influential factors—including a family history of these conditions):
- • Diabetes
- • Cardiovascular disease
- • High blood pressure
- • Kidney disease
- • Family lineage including African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander
- • Age 60 or older
- • Low birth weight
- • Obesity
- • Kidney stones, lupus or urinary tract infections
If you belong to any risk groups, a big part of keeping kidneys healthy involves taking precautions and getting regular tests. There are four primary tests you should be considering regularly:
- • Blood pressure: This is a simple test that can be performed by a doctor or at many drug stores. A normal range is generally considered to be anything below 140/90, but this can vary for people at higher risk of kidney disease.
- • Protein in urine: Too much protein in the urine could signal kidney disease.
- • Creatinine in blood: When the kidneys are healthy, they remove creatinine out of the body. If it’s present in high levels, it could signal kidney disease.
- • Glomerular filtration rate: Abbreviated GFR, this is a very sensitive test that measures creatinine levels and compares them to factors like age, race and gender.
Diet and Exercise
There are several diet elements that can relate directly to kidney health:
- • Limit your total cholesterol.
- • Limit sodium: Under 2,300 milligrams per day is recommended.
- • Promote healthy foods: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy are some of the most important areas for heart and kidney health.
- • Limit your alcohol intake.
- • Moderate your protein intake.
- • For people with diabetes, controlling sugar and glucose intake is important.
- • Drink lots of water.
It’s also important to exercise regularly to keep kidneys healthy. Weight is a significant factor in kidney health, and exercise is one of the best ways to moderate it.
There are several basic habits and lifestyle choices that can influence your chances of kidney disease. A few of the most important include:
- • Smoking: Cigarette smoking can make existing kidney problems worse, and quitting can lower your risk.
- • Getting an annual flu shot and physical
- • For diabetes patients, controlling glucose levels in the blood
- • Medications: Medications must be taken exactly as they’re prescribed. Painkillers falling under the category of NSAIDs should be avoided.
If you’re showing signs of kidney disease, or if you’re at higher risk and wondering about prevention methods, speak to your doctor about your options.
Are you concerned about your kidney function? Talk with your primary care physician about seeing a nephrology specialist.
“Keep Your Kidneys Healthy.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-communication-programs/nkdep/learn/causes-kidney-disease/keep-kidneys-healthy/Pages/keep-kidneys-healthy.aspx
“Six-Step Guide to Protecting Kidney Health.” National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/sixstepshealthprimer