Kidney disease is a major health problem in the United States, over 30 million Americans have kidney disease, and many of them don't even know it. In fact, 33% of Americans are at risk of developing kidney disease. Black people and people of color are disproportionately affected by kidney disease. But the good news is that many times, kidney disease is actually preventable. In this blog post, we will go over 10 tips on how to keep your kidneys healthy and fight kidney disease!
What Is The Function Of The Kidney?
What exactly are the kidneys, their purpose, and their point? Well, your kidneys are your two organs located in your lower back or your flanks. They are located where the love handles are. And they serve to filter out your blood and they get rid of excess toxins, they make urine, and they do so much more than that. But the key is, that unless you have at least one functioning kidney, you cannot live. Unless you have some other form of kidney replacement therapy like dialysis or transplant, but you have to have proper kidney function to survive. Knowing that, don't you think that you should make your kidney health a priority? Today, I'm going to talk to you about how to keep your kidneys healthy.
10 Ways To Fight Kidney Disease!
1. Drink Water
Many people don't know that not having enough water in your system, being dehydrated, or having prerenal azotemia can lead to kidney failure. I have actually put people on dialysis just because they were severely dehydrated. So you want to be sure you drink your water. Now, for most adults, drinking two to three liters of water a day is appropriate, but you want to consult your physician because that can vary depending on how your body uses water, how much water you lose in a day, and whether you're exercising or being sedentary. So yes, consult your physician. Also, if you have certain chronic diseases, then your physician may actually want you to have a fluid restriction. For example, if you have congestive heart failure, or if you have severe lung disease, your physician may want to restrict the amount of water you drink. At any rate, drinking water is a way to keep your kidneys healthy.
2. Have A Low Salt Diet
You want to take in a low amount of salt or sodium. Now, according to the USDA, you should be taking in no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. And according to the American Heart Association, you should not be taking in more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. When you take in a lot of salt, that can lead to high blood pressure or hypertension, which is a leading cause of kidney disease.
Now, when I talk to a lot of my patients, they'll tell me that they don't pick up a salt shaker, they don't add a lot of salt, and so they don't think I'm talking to them right now. But truth be told, most of the salt that we intake comes from prepackaged foods or from restaurants. So in other words, situations where you can't directly control it. So what you need to do is be a label watcher. Look out for that sodium, you can ask restaurants not to add salt to your foods, and all in all, in order to keep healthy kidneys, you want to maintain a low salt diet. Be sure to watch my videos on 10 high sodium foods to avoid.
3. Exercise Regularly
You want to make sure you're getting good exercise. According to the American Heart Association, you should be exercising for about 150 minutes per week, and that's with moderate intensity. So it could be jogging, brisk walking, cycling. And it works out to be about 30 minutes of exercise a day, most days of the week. Exercise helps to maintain your cardiovascular health, it helps you to maintain good blood pressure, it helps you to maintain healthy body weight, and you definitely want to exercise in order to fight kidney disease.
4. Eat Healthy Foods
You definitely want to take in superfoods. Foods that are rich in nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. You want to eat the rainbow, a variety of fruits and vegetables. Be sure to watch my YouTube video on a kidney diet and how to eat right with CKD.
5. Maintain Normal Sugar or Glucose Levels
Now this one is very important, because if your blood sugar levels or your glucose levels are high, you may develop diabetes. And diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure in the United States. That's right. When I visit my patients and take care of them in the dialysis units, most of them have diabetes. And so, you definitely want to maintain a normal blood sugar level. So how do you do that? Well, you want to consult your physician, you want to have your blood glucose checked regularly, and you also want to get a test called a Hemoglobin A1C. That helps you to know if you have prediabetes or diabetes. If your hemoglobin A1C is between 5.7 and 6.4, you are prediabetic, meaning you are at a very high risk of developing diabetes.
And if your hemoglobin A1C is 6.5 or higher, you have diabetes. So again, make sure you talk to your physician to help you to maintain normal blood glucose levels. And you also want to realize whether or not you are at risk for diabetes. You are at risk if you are older than the age of 45, if you are a person with obesity, if you have a family history of diabetes, also, if you have certain conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome, then that puts you at a higher risk for developing diabetes.
6. Maintain Normal Cholesterol Levels
If you have high cholesterol, then this increases your risk of developing plaques, which can be blockages in your arteries. If you develop blockages in your arteries, you may block or cut off your supply to your kidney arteries or your renal arteries. And if this happens, you can get a renovascular disease, which can lead to high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease. And so you definitely, want to make sure that you maintain normal cholesterol levels in order to keep your kidneys healthy.
7. Avoid Excessive Pain Medications
Avoid excessive pain medications, specifically NSAIDs or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. So what are the NSAIDs? NSAIDs include drugs like Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, Naproxen, Meloxicam, and Celebrex. A lot of these medicines are really good for pain and really great for decreasing inflammation. Now I'm not saying that it's an absolute that you stop taking NSAIDs altogether, but you want to make sure that you don't take them in excess. In other words, you want to take them the way that they are prescribed. If a bottle says, take two, don't take four thinking it will be better. If the bottle says, take four, don't take eight. You want to make sure that you consult your physician to be sure that it's okay for you to take NSAIDs.
If you're a person who already has some signs of kidney disease, your physician may not want you to take NSAIDs. And if you have normal kidney function, you want to make sure that you're well-hydrated, especially when taking NSAIDs. And you use them as directed, and still, you want to talk to your physician. At any rate, there are people who can develop what we call NSAID nephropathy. And I have dialyzed patients just because they've taken too many pain medications.
8. Avoid Taking Supplementations or Herbs
Avoid taking supplementations or herbs, unless you consult your physician. Now, I'm telling you, this is key. A lot of people think that just because something is sold over the counter, or just because online, it says, natural, that it is healthy for you. And that is not the case. I have had patients who have come to my office with kidney disease due to taking certain supplements or herbal medications that were not right for them. And so, certainly, I'm not against taking supplements, I'm not against taking herbs, but you must speak to your physician, because every herb may not be for you.
Every supplement may not be for you. And because a lot of the natural quote, unquote supplements don't have to have FDA approval, we oftentimes don't know what ingredients are in them. And so you want to make sure that you avoid taking supplements or buying certain herbs online, or buying them from the person in the corner you don't know. You want to avoid taking supplements and herbs unless you do it under the guidance of your physician.
9. Maintain Normal Blood Pressure
This is so important because high blood pressure or hypertension is the second most common cause of kidney failure in the United States. Normal blood pressure is when that top number or systolic blood pressure is less than 120 and that bottom number or diastolic blood pressure is less than 80. If you are walking around here with a systolic blood pressure of 130 or higher, you have hypertension. Now, I know a lot of people will say, "Oh no, my blood pressure runs high. Mine runs in the 140s, it runs in the 150s, that's normal for me." No, it's not. It's not normal to have high blood pressure, because the body is a beautiful thing, and it will allow you to compensate to the point where you don't feel symptoms if you have chronic hypertension.
But just because you don't feel symptoms, you can still be damaging your kidneys with high blood pressure. And another thing that can happen in a person who has high blood pressure, even if you're trying to do the right thing, you go to your doctor, you start taking the medications, oftentimes, as your blood pressure begins to decrease, you might feel lightheaded, or fatigued, or dizzy. And that might make you think that the blood pressure that's high is normal for you, or it might make you think that you're having an adverse or a bad reaction to the medications, not so necessarily.
A lot of times, it just takes your body two or three weeks in order to adjust to normal blood pressure. And so, before just stopping a blood pressure medication, make sure you talk to your physician. Tell your physician the symptoms you're having. If the blood pressure medicine is affecting your energy level, if it's affecting your love life, talk to your doctor. There are things that we can do. We have tricks for that kind of thing. But what you don't want to do is to have abnormal blood pressure, because maintaining good blood pressure is a way to fight kidney disease.
10. Reduce Your Stress
When you have high stress, you can be putting your kidneys at risk. And let me tell you how. When you are stressed, you cause your body's stress hormones to surge, your adrenaline, and your cortisol levels increase. And when these hormones are on the rise, they cause your blood vessels to constrict or tighten, which can cause your blood pressure to increase. And we already talked about it. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney disease. Having high-stress hormones, like high cortisol, can also cause you to have high blood sugar. And you will recall, that having high blood sugar or diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure. And so, how to keep your kidneys healthy? Reduce your stress. For some tips on how to reduce your stress, be sure you watch my video on 10 healthy habits for a better you and a better life. And you can download a free PDF to help you on your journey.
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