Kidneys are a small part of the body but healthy kidneys do an important job of balancing water and other substances in the body. Check out these lifestyle changes to keep your kidneys healthy and in good shape. If they begin to malfunction, you might not even realize it for a long time.
- Kidneys help filter harmful wastes and drugs, extra water, extra nutrients and flush it away from the body as urine.
- Kidneys also produce hormones for controlling blood pressure, keeping the bones strong, making red blood cells etc.
If kidneys start malfunctioning, toxins and water can accumulate in the blood and hormone production falls. The worrying part is that there are very few symptoms until the kidney disease reaches an advanced stage.
Lifestyle Changes to Keep Kidneys Healthy
Maintain Blood Pressure
When there is extra fluid in the blood vessels, they become narrow stiff and clogged and lead to hypertension or high blood pressure. High blood pressure could damage the blood vessels of the kidneys, affect their proper working and even lead to cardiovascular diseases.
Lifestyle changes can play a major role in bringing down blood pressure to the desired level.
- Keep kidney healthy natural way by watching your weight, as blood pressure increases with weight. You can reduce blood pressure by 1 mm Hg for every 2.2 pounds of weight loss.
- Take care to exercise regularly. Aerobic exercises like walking; jogging; cycling; swimming and dancing are recommended. Strength training and high intensity training can also help.
- Improve kidney healthy with these dietary changes, such as intake of a healthy diet consisting of grains; fruits; vegetables; low fat dairy; reduced saturated fat can help in reducing blood pressure. (Also known as the DASH Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
Remember: High blood pressure is the 2nd most common cause of kidney failure in the US.
Keeping Cholesterol Levels Low
Cardiovascular disease is common among those with CKD or chronic kidney disease. High cholesterol levels are linked to strokes and heart diseases.
- We cannot control the cholesterol produced by the body, but can limit it in our diets.
- Eat heart healthy foods. For instance, reduce saturated fats found in meat and full fat dairy products. This will reduce the bad cholesterol or LDL.
- Avoid trans fats or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is used in margarine, store cookies, crackers, cakes etc.
- Eat foods containing high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, which can reduce blood pressure. Such foods are salmon; mackerel, herring, walnuts, flaxseeds among others. These are good foods for kidney health.
- Increase consumption of soluble fiber, present in oatmeal; kidney beans; brussel sprouts; apples and pears.
- Whey protein in dairy products can reduce LDL and blood pressure, forming part of foods that help repair kidneys.
A low cholesterol diet is prescribed for kidney patients, which keeps phosphorous, calcium and protein levels at healthy levels.
Weight Loss for Keeping Kidneys Healthy
Win the battle with the scale in order to help your kidneys function properly.
- Keep a food log for every item you eat or drink. Follow a healthy kidney diet.
Add portion sizes in order to avoid overeating. These are part of important lifestyle changes to keep your kidneys in good shape.
- Follow a proper exercise plan, aiming at a minimum of 30 minutes exercise per day, at least 5 days a week. Include light weight training. Use mobile apps and charts to find out suitable workouts for your weight.
- Switch over to lower calorie alternatives instead of high calorie foods. For instance, opt for baking or grilling instead of frying. Opt for low calorie salads and take smaller portions.
- Eat foods that can help you in feeling full and offer bulk to the stomach. For instance, low salt crackers, fiber rich foods like fruits and veggies, low fat popcorn, fluids etc.
Controlling Blood Sugar Levels
High blood sugar levels from diabetes can lead to damaging your kidneys. Check out these self management actions to prevent such damage and maintain good kidney health.
Keep track of blood sugar levels by using a blood glucose meter for measuring blood sugar at a fixed time every day and make sure you stay on the target.
- Keep a check on the amount of carbs you consume. A low carb diet can prevent a spike in blood sugar levels and also helps towards weight loss. Avoid refined carbs like white bread, white rice and breakfast cereals as they have a high GI and lead to sugar spikes.
- Reduce sweets intake in order to prevent kidney damage.
- Maintain a healthy weight, as it is difficult to control blood sugar levels with an overweight body.
- Exercise enhances the cells sensitivity to the insulin hormone, making it easier to control blood sugar levels.
- Eat more fiber like oatmeal, nuts, legumes, blueberries and vegetables; drink more water.
- Get sufficient chromium and magnesium, which are linked to controlling sugar levels.
Healthy Potassium Levels
Potassium is important for controlling the functions of nerves and muscles and the kidneys help keep potassium levels at the healthy 3.5 to 5.5 mEq/L. Potassium comes from the foods you eat and healthy kidneys help in eliminating the excess potassium through urine.
- Create a proper diet plan for maintaining potassium levels.
- Control intake of milk and milk products and instead consume non-dairy substitutes.
Take care to avoid salt substitutes when replacing salt in recipes, as they contain potassium chloride, which is not good for those with kidney disease.
Kidney Friendly Diet
A kidney friendly diet is one that reduces the amount of waste in the blood and helps the kidney function better and prevent damage.
- Those with kidney disease must restrict nutrients like sodium, potassium, phosphorus and proteins.
- Intake of cauliflower, blueberries, sea bass, red grapes, egg whites, garlic, buckwheat, olive oil, bulgur, cabbage and bell peppers, onions, are all part of a renal diet dish.
Staying Hydrated Improves Kidney Health
Drinking plenty of water and fluids will help the kidneys to function better.
- One of the common misconceptions is that you must drink 8 glasses of water a day. However, the needs will differ by age, climate, exercise levels, illness and other factors.
- Water will enable the kidneys to remove waste from the blood in the form of urine. The delivery system is affected due to lack of water and severe dehydration can result in kidney damage.
- You should make around 1.5 liters or 6 cups of urine on a daily basis.
- Sufficient intake of water will prevent the formation of kidney stones and other urinary tract infections.
Warning: Those with kidney failure and end stage kidney diseases should take less water.
Tip: Urine must be straw colored. If it is any darker, it is a sign of dehydration.
Warning: Drink more water when you are in a hot country, after strenuous exercise and while traveling as more fluids are lost due to sweat.
Lifestyle Changes to Keep Your Kidneys in Good Shape
It is important to maintain kidneys in shape for overall health and well being, as they will be able to better perform activities like expelling waste and producing hormones for the body to function properly.
- Keep fit with regular exercise, as it reduces blood pressure and prevents chances of CKD. Walk, run, cycle or dance. Do activities that keep you busy and let you have fun as well.
- Keep blood sugar under control.
- Keep a check on blood pressure and weight and stick to a healthy diet.
- Drink plenty of water and fluids.
Tip: Go in for regular kidney function tests to know whether they are healthy and stay ahead of any damages!