7 Awful Habits That Can Damage Your Kidney Health

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Today, I'm going to share with you 7 awful habits that can damage your kidney health. Kidney disease is quite prevalent in America. Over 37-million Americans have it and 33% are at risk, many of whom don't even know it. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney failure in America, but there are other causes as well, other habits you may have that will put your kidney health at risk.


7 Habits That Damage Your Kidney Health


1. Too Much Salt In Your Diet

If you have a high salt intake, this could lead to kidney failure. Salt is a risk factor for high blood pressure and high blood pressure is the second most common cause of kidney failure. If you have an excessive amount of salt intake, that can cause you to retain water, retain the salt, and can lead to elevated blood pressure, which can damage your kidneys, and could ultimately lead to you being on dialysis or requiring a transplant.

The average person should be taking in around two grams, or 2,000 milligrams of sodium or less. And even if you're doing Himalayan salt or sea salt, there is still sodium. Please be sure to watch my video on how to lower blood pressure naturally, where I go into more detail on salt intake and how it can damage you. But do understand that too much salt is an awful habit that could lead to kidney damage.

2. Dehydration

If you have a habit of not drinking enough water and getting dehydrated, this could be another habit that can lead to kidney disease. The kidneys need an adequate water supply, and you must be properly hydrated in order for the kidneys to do well. When you are dehydrated, this causes a condition called prerenal azotemia, which can lead to acute kidney injury and even chronic kidney disease.

Please consult your physician to find out the amount of fluid intake that is adequate for you. A round number for many people is from two to three liters of water intake per day. That's anywhere from four to six 16-ounce bottles of water a day. But if you have congestive heart failure or lung disease, then your doctor may want you to be on a fluid restriction. So consult your doctor. I recommend that you drink mostly water. Tea, coffee, lemonade, cranberry juice, these drinks are not a substitute for water. At any rate, I want you to remember that being dehydrated is another awful habit that can lead to kidney damage.


3. Pain Medication

If you have a habit of taking certain pain meds, then this could lead to kidney damage. The pain meds I'm speaking of specifically are the NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Now don't get me wrong. NSAIDs certainly have their place. They are great anti-inflammatory drugs and if you have no kidney disease and you stay well hydrated, then certainly NSAIDs may be alright for you.

However, if you are a person who takes NSAIDs in access and you already have vulnerable kidneys, like if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or if you're dehydrated, then the NSAIDs can actually worsen your kidney health. NSAIDs include drugs like Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Celebrex, Motrin. All of these things are NSAIDs.

People who have chronic pain like chronic lower back pain, chronic headaches, migraines, severe arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis, may be at risk for taking too many NSAIDs. And if you take too many NSAIDs, as in you take more than the way they are prescribed or if you have vulnerable kidneys and even if you take the NSAIDs the way they are prescribed and you have dehydration, then the NSAIDs can lead to something called NSAID nephropathy. And I have actually put patients on dialysis due to overuse of NSAIDs. So please consult your physician. Find out if it is safe for you to take NSAIDs and how many you should take, because overuse of NSAIDs is a habit that could damage your kidney health.


kidney health


4. Excessive Alcohol Use

This one will not make me popular, excessive alcohol. If you drink alcohol in excess, this could be a habit that can damage your kidneys. So what is too much alcohol? Well, don't worry. We have it down to a science. It is recommended that men should drink no more than two drinks a day. Women should drink no more than one drink a day. And if you are a man over the age of 65, you should drink no more than one drink a day.

Now, what is a drink? This is where it gets tricky. Don't worry, I'll give you specifics. One drink is 12 grams of ethanol. So if you look at it in terms of beer, one drink is 12 ounces of beer. Wine, one drink is 8 ounces of wine. And if you like your stronger liquor, the 80-proof drinks, then just 1.5 ounces is a drink.

So again, for men, no more than two drinks a day. For women, no more than one drink a day. And for men over 65, no more than one drink a day. Why is that? Excessive alcohol use can lead to hypertension. And again, hypertension is one of the leading causes of kidney failure. The other thing about alcohol is that if you drink alcohol in excess, it can cause you to use the restroom a lot. It can make you urinate a lot. And when you urinate in excess, you become dehydrated, and remember, dehydration can damage the kidneys.


5. Smoking Cigarettes

When you look at the risk factors for many, many diseases, you will find that smoking cigarettes is often on the list. Well, kidney disease is no different, and smoking cigarettes is another awful habit that can damage your kidney health. When you smoke cigarettes, this can lead to poor circulation and it can lead to your kidneys not getting adequate blood flow, which can lead to kidney failure. Also, smoking is a risk factor for renal cell carcinoma or kidney cancer. So smoking cigarettes is another bad habit that can damage your kidneys.


6. Use of Illegal Drugs

If you have a drug habit, then this is an awful habit that can lead to kidney damage. There are certain drugs in particular, like cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, also known as Molly MDMA. All of these can potentially lead to kidney damage.

Cocaine can actually cause your blood vessels to tighten or constrict, and this can lead to hypertension or high blood pressure. Again, high blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney damage. If you use heroin, this can also lead to kidney failure, especially if the heroin is mixed with something like talc or other foreign substances, which are toxic to the kidneys.

And then there is ecstasy or Molly. When you take ecstasy, it can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which again is a leading cause of kidney failure. It can also cause dehydration, which can lead to kidney damage. And in some patients who take ecstasy, they can get something called rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis occurs when you have a breakdown of muscle cells and the pigment inside of the muscles, the myoglobin, can be toxic to the kidneys.


7 habits that damage your kidney health


7. Excessive Strenuous Exercise

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that you should not exercise. But if you over-exercise, if your exercise is over-strenuous, then this also can lead to the rhabdomyolysis I was just speaking of. And yes, I have patients who see me in my clinic with rhabdomyolysis due to excessive exercise. They may present with symptoms like very sore muscles.

I know a lot of times you are told "no pain, no gain", but there is a limit in how far you push yourself. Because if you're really overexerting yourself, then you could be literally ripping your muscles apart. You could be getting that rhabdomyolysis where the pigment from inside of the muscles is damaging your kidneys.

So in addition to having extreme muscle pain, they may actually get swelling of their muscles. Their urine can change colors. Patients with rhabdomyolysis from strenuous exercise may get a dark or a Coca-Cola-colored urine. And yes, I have had to dialyze patients due to rhabdomyolysis from overstrenuous exercise.

And again, please do not take this to mean that I'm saying don't exercise. I want you to exercise. Just make sure that it's not over-strenuous to the point where you're getting rhabdomyolysis. Yes, I want you to exercise. In fact, I want you to watch my YouTube video on ways that exercise can improve your mental health.


So there you have it, 7 awful habits that can damage your kidney health. If you found this article to be helpful and informative, please be sure to share it with the people you care about. Also, if you have not done so already, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and make sure you hit the notification bell, that way you'll be among the first to know when I'm releasing new medical content.

Also, please follow me on Instagram. That way you'll know what I'm up to in my everyday life. You can find me at @Dr.Frita on all social media handles and always do your best to live your healthiest, happiest life.

Dr. Frita - Frita McRae Fisher, M.D.
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