Twenty six million American adults suffer from kidney disease and millions more are at risk. Worse, as Type 2 diabetes and obesity rates continue to soar, kidney disease will become even more prevalent. But the news isn’t all bad. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
In honor of National Kidney Month and World Kidney Day on March 14th, the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland encourages everyone to take proactive steps to protect their kidneys.
Here are our top 5 tips:
1. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity directly causes kidney disease, because the kidneys have to work harder to filter out toxins and to meet the metabolic demands of the increased body mass index (BMI) in obese individuals. This is called hyperfiltration and in the long term, it is associated with increased risk of developing kidney disease. As an indirect cause, obesity increases the major kidney disease risk factors-- type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
2. Exercise regularly. It’s true, exercise does a body good—including your kidneys. Aim to get 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 times a week. Of that, 10 minutes at least 2 or 3 times a week should include light weight training. If you have joint issues, swimming is a good option as it keeps weight off the joints. Small lifestyle tweaks such as walking more and taking the stairs can have a big impact on your health over time. For more fitness tips, visit our A to Z health guide.
3. Eat a balanced, low-salt diet. Diets high in sodium increase blood pressure levels. High blood pressure damages the kidneys over time, and is a leading cause of kidney failure. The NKF recommends following a low-salt diet Also make sure to limit high calorie drinks.These include soda, fruit punch, fruit juices, some coffee drinks and alcohol. Alcohol, which contains minimal nutrients and a lot of empty calories, should be avoided. Drinks that are advisable include water, unsweetened tea and fat free or 1% milk. Another bonus to drinking lots of water? It helps prevent painful kidney stones.
4. Quit smoking. You’ve probably heard this one millions of times. But there’s a good reason for it. Smoking causes diseases in every organ of the body, and the kidneys are no exception. People who smoke are more likely to have protein in the urine, which is one of the earliest signs of kidney damage. And smokers are also more likely to need dialysis or kidney transplants. Quitting smoking is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your overall health.
5. Avoid long term use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (over-the-counter painkillers, known as NSAIDs): Long-term use of over-the-counter painkillers, especially at high doses, has a harmful effect on kidney tissue and structures. These drugs can also reduce the blood flow to the kidney. If you already have kidney disease, talk to your health care professional about safe medication use.
In addition to the practical tips above, make sure you know your family history and see your doctor for an annual physical, where you can monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol and have your urine tested. Caught early, kidney disease can be managed, and kidney damage can be slowed or stopped. For more information visit the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland at www.kidneymd.org
Serving central and western Maryland, the Delmarva Peninsula and portions of West Virginia, the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland is the area’s only voluntary health agency dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of kidney and urinary tract diseases.