Did you know that 1 in 3 American adults are at risk for kidney disease? The major risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of kidney failure and being age 60 or older. While you can’t change your age or family history, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to prevent diabetes and high blood pressure or to help manage these conditions if you’ve already been diagnosed. Here are eight tips to prevent kidney disease:
1. Quit Smoking:
Smoking is proven to slow the blood flow to vital organs including the kidneys. It can also affect medicines commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Not only does smoking increase your risk of developing kidney disease, but also the risk of lung, bladder, mouth, cervical and kidney cancer, as well as lung disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, pregnancy complications and early menopause.
2. Limit Alcohol Consumption:
The kidneys filter harmful substances from your blood, including alcohol. We’re not saying you can enjoy a glass of wine at dinner or a cold beer after work, but heavy drinking on a regular basis has been found to double the risk of kidney disease. For women, heavy drinking is considered more than three drinks in a day (or more than seven per week), and for men, more than four drinks in a day (or more than 14 per week). One drink equals a 12-ounce bottle of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one shot (1.5 ounces) of liquor.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Nearly 70% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight, with about one-third of those considered obese. The more body fat you have, the higher your risk of kidney disease and other health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. If the excess weight is predominantly in your midsection, you are at even greater risk.
4. Eat a Balanced, Healthy Diet:
One of the key components of maintaining a healthy weight is eating a balanced, nutritional diet. Consuming the right amount of nutrients helps to grow, repair body tissue and build new muscle tissue. This Food Guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is an excellent resource for what to eat, how much to eat and foods you should avoid.
5. Be Mindful of Your Salt Intake:
The average American consumes 50% more than the recommended daily quantity of sodium, which is about one teaspoon per day. Diets high in sodium are proven to increase blood pressure levels, and as we mentioned high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure
6. Understand Food Labels:
Reading and understanding food labels essential to eating a well-balanced diet and being aware of how much salt you consume. The nutritional values on food labels are based on the FDA’s recommended 2,000 calorie diet, but everyone is different. Know your body’s needs for calories, fats, cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, potassium and phosphorous. If you need help, consult a registered dietician. You should also carefully read the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in order by weight from greatest to least. This guide from the National Kidney Foundation can help you understand each area of food labels.
7. Exercise Regularly:
Regular exercise offers a host of benefits including reducing risk diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease. You don’t have to hit the gym every day, but you should aim for 30-60 minutes of moderate to strenuous exercise most days of the week. You can start by going for a walk or even household chores, then start incorporating aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, biking or hiking. For advice about what type of activity is right for you, consult your physician.
8. Never Skip Your Annual Physical Exam:
Going to the doctor when you are well is just as, if not more, important than when you are sick. When it comes to your health, it is always better to take a proactive approach versus a reactive approach when possible. Your annual physical exam will help build a relationship with your doctor and establish baselines that will make it easier to identify changes that could indicate a problem. A simple urine test or blood test can check for kidney disease. Early detection and timely treatment can prevent or slow the progression of kidney disease.
When to Seek Help
Kidney disease often has no symptoms, which means it often goes undetected until the disease is very advanced. These tips can not only help prevent kidney disease but are also beneficial for your overall health in general.
If you or someone you love has already been diagnosed with kidney disease, call (919) 477-3005 to schedule an appointment with Durham Nephrology. Our team of providers has over 30 years of experience in the management and treatment of kidney disease for patients in and around Durham and Oxford, North Carolina.