If you have kidney disease or you’re at risk for it, your doctor has probably recommended some lifestyle changes. But the reality is that everyone—not just people with kidney disease—should take steps to make sure their kidneys are functioning properly. After all, your kidneys are a big part of how waste and toxins are filtered out of your body.
The kidneys are fist-sized organs located at the base of the back of your rib cage. They filter waste products, excess water, and other impurities from the digestive system and create urine. They also secrete hormones that regulate blood pressure and red blood cell production and help keep your blood’s mineral levels constant.
Your kidneys are vital to a healthy body, so you need to understand how to best care for them. The good news is, if you’re making healthy lifestyle choices, you’re already supporting them! And it’s never too late to start.
Know your risk factors
The best way to avoid issues with your kidneys is to know whether you are at risk for kidney problems and, if so, take appropriate precautions. The main risk factors for kidney problems include heart disease, diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure, your age (60 and older), low birth weight, prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain killers, autoimmune disorders like lupus, chronic urinary tract infections, and kidney stones. If you experience or have a family history of any of these risk factors, ask your doctor to test your kidney function.
Watch for the following symptoms and inform your doctor immediately if you experience:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Painful urination
- Urine that is foamy, pink or dark
- Increased thirst
- Puffy eyes
- Swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles or feet
Maintain a healthy diet
Eating nutritious foods helps ensure your overall health, which, of course, includes kidney function. A diet with too much salt can damage the kidneys and cause the buildup of kidney stones, among other things. Monitor your consumption of processed foods, which tend to have a much higher sodium content than that of fresh, healthy foods. The same goes for foods that have too much sugar or fat.
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have health problems that can damage the kidneys, including diabetes and heart disease. Make healthy diet choices with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins, such as legumes, beans, fish, poultry, nuts, and seeds.
Drink plenty of fluids
Another part of healthy kidney function is hydration. Even slight dehydration can cause kidney damage over time. The amount of water you should drink depends on your body size, health, and lifestyle. Aim to drink at least one and one-half to two liters daily. Carry a reusable water bottle to help you reach your goals. If you’ve had kidney stones, drink more water than the recommended intake because it helps prevent future deposits. Follow your physician’s recommendations to stay properly hydrated.
Beware of drugs, medications, supplements, and smoking
Your kidneys filter everything that enters your body, including all ingested and inhaled medications and drugs. Take great care with the longtime use of painkillers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, smoking, herbal supplements, and other medications. If you smoke or regularly use recreational drugs, it’s best to stop now. Talk to your doctor about any medications and supplements you take to find out if you are unknowingly taxing or damaging your kidneys.
As with most diseases, chronic and otherwise, exercise and movement can decrease your chances of getting sick. A regular exercise routine keeps you from developing a host of risk factors for kidney disease, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. If you haven’t exercised in a while, work your way up to it slowly. Don’t forget to talk to your primary doctor before beginning any exercise routine. And whether you have a regular exercise routine or you’re thinking about getting started, you might want to check out Healthway Park or one of our other wellness centers. We’re always ready to help make your health possible!
Many of the things you can do to help your kidneys will also go a long way in creating healthy lifestyle habits to benefit the health of your entire body. Make sure you know your risk factors and consult your doctor if you have concerns. Manage your weight and other risk factors through diet, exercise, and drinking plenty of fluids. Healthy kidneys are vital to maintaining a healthy body so you can live your life to the fullest.
If you have questions about kidney disease or any other health-related matter, our associates are always available to help you find answers. Contact us at 317-462-5544 and find your care team.