Every year, over 90,000 Americans die from kidney disease according to the National Kidney Foundation. This number is higher than that of breast and prostate cancer. We need our kidneys to live a long, healthy life, so we have to keep them healthy. Making small changes in our sleep habits and diet can help prevent kidney disease in our bodies.
Replace Salt With Herbs
Salt can make food taste better, but it can also disturb the balance in our blood, making our kidneys work much harder to get rid of water from our bodies. In 2018, research done for the Journal of Clinical Hypertension revealed that consuming too much salt can lead to kidney disease. The recommended daily limit for sodium intake according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is only one teaspoon, which is roughly a third less than the amount the average American consumes.
Limit Your Intake Of Painkillers
According to a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, heavy use of painkillers like Advil or Tylenol results in 5,000 kidney failure cases in the United States each year. Taking a painkiller is most dangerous after you have been fasting. Painkillers are dangerous because they decrease the blood flowing to the kidneys, which can cause plenty of stress on the kidneys after some time. The occasional painkiller for your backache or headache is generally okay, though.
Don’t Underestimate A Cold
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that the average person becomes sick with a cold two to three times per year. You might think a cold is nothing more than annoying and is pretty harmless, but you are mistaken. Leaving colds without treatment will cause your body to produce more antibodies and after a while, these antibodies will begin to get unhealthy for your kidneys. 72 percent of Americans stay home when they’re sick but it is better if you see a doctor when you feel sick.
Don’t Wait To Use The Restroom
Holding in the urge to go to the restroom is one of the major causes of kidney problems. A hub for bacteria, urine shouldn’t be in your body since it creates more bacteria the longer it sits. Eventually, this bacteria goes to your kidneys. When you need to go, do not resist the urge.
Say Goodbye To Those Cigarettes
Today, it’s not a secret that smoking is very bad for your lungs and heart, but you might not know that it is just as bad for your kidneys. In 2000, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that chain smokers, current and former, have a higher risk of developing kidney disease. Using things like cigarettes creates creatinine in the body, a substance that is harmful to the kidneys. While former smokers are a bit less likely to develop the disease than current smokers, it’s never too late to kick the habit.
Try To Avoid Processed Foods
Companies often add a large amount of sodium to keep food fresh longer but this is quite dangerous for kidney health. Aside from sodium, processed foods have other ingredients that are in amounts much higher than the body should be consuming. Potassium and phosphorus are some of these ingredients which are fine in small amounts but can be damaging if people take in a lot. Kidneys control potassium levels, so too much of it can be stressful on the organ. You should limit the frequency and amount of processed foods that you’re eating.
Stay Away From Soda
Some fruit drinks provide nutrients to the body but soda only has sugar. The sugar content of 12 ounces of soda is equal to that of three and a half donuts. According to research, consuming two or more sodas in a day will cause a twofold increase in your risk of developing kidney disease. However, sugar is not the only issue here because soda also has a large amount of phosphoric acid, which increases the risk of kidney problems as well.
Get Enough Sleep
University of Chicago researchers proved that poor sleeping habits can increase the risk of kidney disease. Compared to the people who had a full night’s sleep, those that slept for only 6.5 hours a day showed an increase of 19 percent in their likelihood of suffering from kidney failure. If you stay up late, your kidneys stay up late as well. Over time, your kidneys can be exhausted by the lack of sleep and you may eventually have liver failure.
Don’t Stop A Prescription Early
If you’re beginning to feel better, don’t quit your prescription early. This is because stopping a prescription when your illness is not completely cured can damage your kidneys. Taking medications that help control pain or blood pressure sporadically instead of regularly can damage your kidneys severely. Your kidneys love routine, so not keeping to your medication routine will confuse your body.
Do Your Homework On Supplements
It is completely fine to take vitamins or supplements daily, but some of them have high dosages, which a lot of people don’t realize. It is harmful to take too much of a vitamin, and your kidneys will specifically suffer. The supplements which are most dangerous for the organ if taken too much are willow bark, cranberry, wormwood oil, geranium, licorice, and vitamin C. Too much cranberry and vitamin C can drastically increase the risk for kidney stones. Supplements like turmeric, which is all-natural, can still be harmful if combined with some medicine.
Keep Your Exercise Routine In-Tact
Exercising is not only for people that want to have better physical health but also for internal health. The National Kidney Foundation states that regular exercise improves sleep habits, lowers blood pressure, and enhances muscle function. These things can reduce the risk of kidney disease. You don’t have to train for a marathon; all you need is 150 minutes per week of light exercises, such as biking or walking.
Exercise In Moderation
Exercise is healthy, but you also have to be careful about working yourself too hard. Surprisingly, there is a real risk of dying from working yourself because your body cannot handle it if you workout too harshly. If several of your muscles get injured at a time, enzymes that can harm your kidneys are released and this leads to kidney failure 40 percent of the time. This is called Rhabdomyolysis, a rare but very dangerous condition, and most cases occur during a person’s first exercise class, where they’re not aware of their body’s limits. Remember that you have to build up muscles slowly, and not go all out on your first day.
Go Easy On Energy Drinks
Scientists have been demanding that the FDA regulate the ingredients in energy drinks, but no changes have been carried out yet. A study by Frontiers in Public Health revealed that there is a close link between kidney disease and energy drink consumption, especially in children. Too much caffeine can lead to increased stress levels and blood pressure, which can cause kidney disease. Energy drinks also have high levels of taurine, which is very dangerous to people that already have kidney disorders.
Are You Getting Enough Water Each Day?
Our kidneys mainly filter water out of our bodies, so it is a must to keep hydrated. The National Hydration Council says that kidney stones often result from long-term dehydration. If you lack water, there will be a higher concentration of minerals in your urine and these can crystalize in your kidneys and form stones. While there is no rule for the amount of water you should drink, the average for women is nine cups and 13 for men. It is based on how thirsty a person feels.
Watch Your Red Meat Intakes
Eating red meat occasionally is not unhealthy, but consuming too much red meat is harmful to the kidneys over time. The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology has confirmed that consuming red meat too often can be harmful for your kidneys. On the other hand, proteins that are plant-based actually repair kidney injury. If you replace a serving of red meat with a plant-based protein every week, you will actually reduce your risk for kidney disease by as high as 62 percent.
Get Those Legs Moving
If your job doesn’t require much moving, then you may want to consider how often you stand up during the day. In 2018, a study revealed that just an hour of physical activity a day can greatly reduce your risk for kidney failure. While it isn’t clear why sitting down increases the likelihood for kidney disease, some researchers believe that it is related to cholesterol and blood glucose levels. So, if you stand up more, your kidneys will be healthier.
Reduce Butter Habits
Recently, some people have publicly expressed their support for replacing butter with margarine. If you love your kidneys, please do not think that switching to margarine is better. While it may have different ingredients, it is still harmful since the fats found in butter and margarine increase your cholesterol level, which harms your kidneys. Enjoying small amounts of butter is not harmful, but you shouldn’t eat it on a daily basis.
People have the tendency to forget how much food should be eaten in one meal, especially during the holidays. Overeating can be really stressful on your kidneys since your kidneys will have to sort through all the food that you eat. The most lethal combination of overeating is consuming too much carbs, protein, and fat together. Most holiday dinners include these three, so it’s important to watch what you put into your body carefully.
Try To Lower Stress Levels
Did you know that regularly having high levels of stress can lead to kidney disease? Research proves that stress is indeed harmful to your kidneys, though experts have not yet figured out exactly why. Some think stress raises blood pressure, your kidneys can get scarred over time. High stress levels also lead to undereating and sleep deprivation, which can also cause distressed kidneys. Try to deal with your stress before it begins taking over your physical health.
Use A Sugar Substitute
Small amounts of sugar is not very harmful to your kidneys but the real health concern is when your blood sugar levels gets really high. Diabetes and high blood sugar force the kidneys to filter a lot of blood, which can result in the kidneys developing diseases. According to research carried out at the University of Montreal, diabetes is strongly tied to kidney disease; diabetes can be caused by kidney disease, and vice versa. To lower your risks for either diseases, limit your sugar intake and check your glucose regularly.
Artificial Sweeteners Also Aren’t So Good
Splenda may help with the calorie count, but these artificial sweeteners actually do more harm than good. In 2009, a study found that choosing to drink diet soda over the regular kind actually causes a 30 percent increase in your risk for kidney disease. Research shows that consuming two or fewer artificially-sweetened treats a day won’t really harm your kidneys, but research that is more detailed still has to be done about this. Try reaching for honey or Stevia next time.
Your kidneys have to work overtime to filter the harmful things out you’re ingesting if you drink alcohol, so overdrinking can be really harmful. Overdrinking is having over four alcoholic drinks daily. At the same time, research has shown that drinking one glass of alcohol every day (seven drinks a week) could actually lower your risk for kidney disease by thirty percent. Therefore, drink in moderation.
Steer Clear Of Body Enhancements
Steroids and other body enhancement drugs may help improve muscle strength, but they also destroy your kidneys. Research indicates that as many as 90 percent of bodybuilders developed scarring from the use of muscle enhancement medications. However, after some time that they stopped using the drugs, their kidneys regained their health. In addition, steroids can raise your cholesterol levels, lower protein levels, and cause swelling in the body, all of which are harmful to the kidneys.
Monitor Your Heartburn Medication
While some heartburn medications are okay to take daily, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) aren’t. Research shows that these medications, which cause acid suppression in your stomach, are harmful to your kidneys. If you take PPIs more frequently than occasionally, you raise your kidney disease risk by 26 percent. Other types of heartburn medicine, such as H2 Blockers, do not have these harmful side effects. Consider switching to H2 Blockers if you take heartburn medication every day.
Check Up On Your Blood Pressure Levels
Blood pressure is dubbed “the silent killer” for good reason – it doesn’t show any symptoms if something isn’t right. According to the American Heart Association, everyone should have their blood pressure checked every two years or more often; the blood vessels in your kidneys suffer greatly from high blood pressure. Once the blood vessels fail, the kidneys also fail at controlling the blood pressure. When this happens, blood pressure can rise really quickly, which can be dangerous.
You Don’t Need So Much Coffee
A cup of coffee a day does not harm you, but drinking several cups does. Caffeine causes blood pressure to increase drastically and quickly, which can be harmful to your kidneys if taken in high quantities. While it has not been confirmed in research how much coffee exactly is too much, you should know these effects. Research carried out at the National Kidney Foundation suggests having less than four cups per day. Besides this, be careful of additives in coffee, such as cream or flavored syrup, since they are high in fats and sugars.
Don’t Eat Too Much Shellfish
Sometimes seafood provides some major health benefits, but eating too much shellfish can start to harm your kidneys over time. Research published in the 2014 Journal of the American Society of Nephrology revealed that shellfish has a chemical called domoic acid, which is harmful, if not toxic. The condition is called “Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning”, and your kidneys can get severely injured. This acid can still hurt your kidneys even in low quantities, so eating plenty of seafood actually does more harm than what people think.
Medical Photos Can Be Harmful
Most people don’t get MRIs very often, but you should know that the dye that is used to contrast colors in the body can be harmful to your kidneys. These dyes have a side effect called Contrast Induced Nephropathy (CIN), which is a disease that causes kidneys to fail for a maximum of three days. Thankfully, CIN is reversible, though it is still dangerous.
Stick To Only The Good Kinds Of Fat
Our bodies also need fats to remain healthy. The healthy fats are monosaturated and polyunsaturated, whereas the bad fats people should stay away from are trans fats, which can be found in processed foods, such as refrigerated dough and creamers. A British Medical Journal study revealed that unsaturated fats aren’t bad for your heart, though trans fat causes a 21 percent increase in your risk for diseases.
One Drink Per Day Can Be Healthy
In 2001, the Postgraduate Medical Journal did research and analyzed more than 100 studies. It concluded that heart health is reinforced by drinking in moderation. One drink a day can lower your heart disease risk, but too much drinking drastically increases your risk. One drink is roughly five ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.
Sleep For Seven Or More Hours
For over 10 years, researchers studied the habits of a group of people, and in 2014, they published their findings. It was proven that sleeping for at least seven hours per night will greatly increase the chances of having a heart that is healthy and disease-free. Deep sleep releases chemicals which lower blood pressure and heart rate, so not sleeping enough can increase your heart problem risk by 58 percent.
Keep Your Stress In Check
When you are really stressed, your breaths get shorter, your heart rate gets faster, and your muscles get tenser. These things can also have serious implications on the health of your heart. Chronic stress will harm your heart over time. Feeling normal levels of stress or anxiety is different from having chronic stress problems. Doing stress-relieving activities for 10 to 15 minutes a day can help tremendously.
Eat More Fruits And Veggies
Studies show that about 2.5 cups or five servings of fruits and veggies every day can reduce your risk for heart disease. 10 servings reduce your disease risk by 28 percent and your premature death risk by 31 percent.
Cut Back On The TV Binging
For 20 years, researchers studied 70,000 women and released their findings in 2015. At the start of the study, almost every woman suffered from heart disease or diabetes, but by the end, many of them were able to reduce their heart attack risk by 92 percent! They all limited their time for watching TV to seven hours a week. If you spend a lot of time watching TV, you spend less time exercising. Watching TV every day for four hours is actually worse than sitting all day at work.
Exercise For Fifteen Minutes Each Day
Exercise is great for the body. It can lower your blood pressure, strengthen your heart, and reduce your stress levels. The American Journal of Medicine authors analyzed exercise intensity needs. They found that even only 15 minutes of exercise every day can significantly improve your lifespan. 15 minutes of doing some kind of physical activity or even walking can reduce your risk of a stroke and heart attack.
Being Social Can Help Your Heart
Research proves that having a social life which is healthy and fulfilling can lower your risk for heart disease. Boston Scientific researchers believe that positive social interactions can relieve stress and help with depression. Next time you think of skipping out on plans with your friends, you should probably reconsider.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Dehydration results in an unhealthy heart. To improve heart health significantly, drink five glasses of water a day. Your heart will weaken over time if your water intake is less than two glasses each day and this can lead to heart diseases. Your heart has to work harder if your blood is thick since the organ has to pump blood through your body. Drinking more water will make your blood less viscous, and thus reducing strain on the muscles of your heart.
Stand Up Frequently
In 2015, 41 studies revealed that sitting all day greatly increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. In a study done in 2019, research suggested that standing for one hour a day reduces your heart disease risk by 26 percent. You can try getting a standing desk, taking brief walks during the day (to drink water, to the bathroom, etc.), or parking your car farther away to walk more.
Measure Blood Pressure
Scientific studies have proven that the most common cause of heart disease is high blood pressure. High blood pressure results in hypertensive heart disease, where your heart becomes thickened and your arteries become narrowed. It is strongly advocated by the American Heart Association that the top of your list of healthcare priorities should be high blood pressure. Even if your blood pressure is not currently high, you should always try to avoid it, because you can always develop high blood pressure.
Always Check Up On Yourself
If you have not monitored your blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol for well over one year, it has been too long. The recommended frequency of checking your blood pressure is once a year, blood glucose every three years, and your cholesterol once every four to six years. Never assume that you are not at risk for harmful diseases. Just because you look healthy, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to check your health risks.
Know What Your BMI Should Be
A 2018 study in JAMA Cardiology revealed that a high Body Mass Index or BMI can increase your chances of developing heart disease. You should ask your doctor what BMI you should have, and try to have a healthy lifestyle that will help you be in that range.
Brush Your Teeth Every Day
Gum disease and heart disease have similar health risks. Harvard Health says bacteria in your gums can travel to blood vessels, inflaming your arteries and creating blood clots which increase your risk for a stroke. In 2012, the American Heart Association said that gum disease do not always harm your heart, but you will still want to brush your teeth twice per day and floss once.
E-Cigarettes Are Extremely Harmful
You may think an e-cigarette is safer than an actual one, but a BMJ research author says, “no safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease”. A 2017 study showed that smoking just one cigarette a day can cause stroke and heart disease in the future. E-cigarettes do not lower these odds, but actually increase your risk for a heart attack and coronary artery disease, as well as emotional distress.
Stay Away From Secondhand Smoke
According to a Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects study, inhaling secondhand smoke increases your risk of developing heart disease by 30 percent. Limit your exposure to smoke in general, whether you are the one smoking or you are next to someone smoking.
Vitamins and Minerals
It is important for our overall health and for our kidney function to have a healthy diet with plenty of whole foods and fresh vegetables and fruits. Many vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as Vitamin D, C, and B6, can increase the risk for kidney stones or kidney failure. For example, magnesium and vitamin B6 are really important to reduce the risk of developing kidney stones.
We always hear about avocados being nutritious and healthy, and how good they are for our hearts with their good fats, antioxidants, and fiber. However, people with kidney disease should steer clear of them since avocados are rich in potassium. Because of this, guacamole as well as avocados should be avoided by people who need to watch their potassium intake.
Canned foods like vegetables, soups, and beans typically have high levels of sodium as salt is added to extend their shelf life. People with kidney disease are often recommended to avoid or limit canned food consumption. It is normally better to choose food labeled with “no salt added” or lower-sodium food. In addition, draining and rinsing canned food like canned tuna and beans can decrease the sodium in them by 33 to 80 percent, depending on the product.
For people with kidney disease, choosing the right bread may be confusing. Whole wheat bread is more nutritious because of its higher fiber content, but white bread is usually recommended for those with kidney disease since whole wheat bread has a lot of potassium and phosphorus. Bread with more whole grains and bran contain more of these minerals. In addition, most bread, whole wheat or not, have high amounts of sodium.
Brown rice has a higher phosphorus and potassium content than white rice. Some good alternatives for rice are buckwheat, bulgur, couscous, and pearled barley since they are also nutritious but have less phosphorus.
While bananas are naturally low in sodium, they have high potassium contents. Unfortunately, many other tropical fruits contain high amounts of potassium as well. Even so, there is a more suitable alternative – pineapples, which contain much less potassium compared to other tropical fruits.
Dairy products contain different vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, and protein, but did you know that consuming too much dairy, especially with other foods rich in phosphorus can be bad for bone health in people who have kidney disease? When kidneys are damaged, they do not work properly, so too much consumption of phosphorus can cause buildup of the mineral in the blood. Over time, this makes bones thin and weak, increasing your risk for bone breakage or fracture. Alternatives for dairy, such as almond milk and unenriched rice milk, contain much lower amounts of phosphorus, potassium, and protein, which makes them good substitutes.
When you have this specific infection, your body produces antibodies that fight it. Extra ones can settle in parts of your kidneys, which causes the organs to become inflamed. While it normally doesn’t last a long time, for some people, the kidney damage is permanent.
Take Care With Antibiotics
Antibiotics are bacteria fighting drugs but they can damage your kidneys when they are used too often. It can occur even if you are healthy, but it is more serious for people whose kidneys are not working well. Some kinds of antibiotics, such as sulfonamides, penicillin, and cephalosporins, are the ones that often cause problems.
It’s really important to know if you are at risk for kidney disease. If you or your close relatives have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or a family member who has had kidney failure, you have a higher chance of developing kidney disease. Your doctor might suggest some kidney tests to be part of your regular checkup. It is best if you catch it soon, since it’s easier to treat at this point, and sometimes even cure.
Oranges and Orange Juice
Many people know about the vitamin C contents of oranges and orange juice, but some are not aware that oranges and their juice also have high levels of potassium. There is 333 mg of potassium in one big orange and 473 mg of potassium in a cup of orange juice. Some good substitutes are grapes, apples, and cranberries and their juices as their potassium contents are lower.
Pickles, Olives, and Relish
Cured or pickled foods, such as olives, pickles, and relish, normally contain very high amounts of salt as part of the process of curing or pickling. As a matter of fact, a pickle has more than 300 mg of sodium and five green pickled olives contain around 195 mg of sodium. Many grocery stores have options for olives, pickles, and relish that are lower in sodium, but remember that even these reduced-sodium options still have high levels of sodium.
Apricots have high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and potassium. The potassium content of dried apricots is even higher. If you compare a cup of fresh apricots to a cup of dried ones, the former contains 427 mg of potassium while the latter has over 1,500 mg of potassium. Therefore, a cup of dried apricots is already 75 percent of the 2,000 mg restriction on potassium.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Both potatoes and sweet potatoes have high potassium levels. Thankfully, you can soak or leach potatoes and sweet potatoes to lower their potassium contents. If you cut potatoes into small and thin pieces and then boil them for 10 minutes or longer, you can reduce the potassium by around 50%. Potatoes which are soaked in water for 4 hours or longer before cooking have a lower potassium content than the ones that are not soaked before cooking.
Tomatoes are another high-potassium fruit. They can be eaten raw or served stewed and are often used to make sauces. There is over 900 mg of potassium in a cup of tomato sauce. Finding an alternative which has lower amounts of potassium depends mostly on taste preference. However, you can switch tomato sauce with roasted red pepper sauce since the latter can be as delicious with less potassium.
Processed foods often have very high levels of sodium. Instant, packaged, and pre-made meals are often the most processed, so they have the highest sodium content. Things like microwaveable meals, frozen pizza, and instant noodles are probably the worst of them. Limiting your sodium intake to 2,000 mg per day can be a real challenge if you regularly eat processed foods.
Swiss Chard, Spinach and Beet Greens
Green leafy vegetables, such as swiss chard, beet greens, and spinach, contain high amounts of minerals and nutrients, including potassium. When these vegetables are served raw, one cup has around 140-290 mg of potassium. Leafy vegetables have the tendency to shrink when cooked, but their potassium content remains the same.
Dates, Raisins, and Prunes
Common dried fruits include prunes, raisins, and dates. When fruits are dried, their nutrients become concentrated, including potassium. A cup of prunes contain 1,274 mg of potassium, almost five times the potassium in a cup of plums.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Many processed foods have genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Because of the lack of studies, it is unknown what the long-term effects of GMO crops are on our health. However, studies on animals reveal serious health effects related to GMOs, such as changes in organs including the kidneys. It’s nearly impossible to avoid these foods, but it’s suggested that people eat processed foods in moderation and consume a variety of fresh and healthy foods instead.
Peanuts contain oxalates, which are minerals found in kidney stones. As a matter of fact, calcium oxalate stones are the most common kidney stone type according to the National Kidney Foundation. For people who have had oxalate kidney stones in the past, they should limit their intake of food which contains oxalates to lower the risk for developing another stone.