If you have an apple-shape body, diabetes, or high blood pressure, you are at risk for developing chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD includes conditions that damage your kidneys and decrease their ability to keep you healthy. Although it may take months or even years to develop fully, it is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Chronic kidney disease is increasingly recognized as a major global health problem. The disease affects 10-16% of the adult population in Asia, Australia, and Europe, as well as in the US, and increases the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and progression to kidney failure, even when excluding other traditional risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes.1
The Highly Esteemed Kidneys
Suppose you own a small company, and maybe some of you do. If you pay one employee 24% of your company’s profits, you would consider that worker very valuable indeed. The heart pays the kidney 24% of its cardiac output at rest. Of course, as we exercise some of our blood is shifted away from the kidneys to the muscles. What makes the kidneys so important? They remove undesirable by-products of metabolism and unneeded compounds and substances so as to balance your body’s chemistry. Even water, glucose, sodium, potassium, etc. can cause sickness and death if allowed to accumulate. The kidneys also substantially impact your blood pressure and red blood cell production.
How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy
1. Keep your blood sugar in normal range
Diabetes substantially increases your risk for CKD and kidney failure. An estimated 33 million Americans have diabetes. Of these, 7 million have yet to be diagnosed. About 40% of diabetics will develop CKD. It gets more serious though. Prediabetes describes the condition of someone who is on the pathway to developing diabetes. In a large study, more than one third of the people with prediabetes were found to have two signs of kidney disease.2
2. Keep your blood pressure in normal range (below 120/80)
Hypertension is a definite risk factor for CKD. The converse is also true: CKD can cause hypertension. By adopting a largely plant-based diet of unrefined foods and engaging in daily moderate exercise, one can substantially decrease their risk for type 2 diabetes and hypertension. If you do develop these diseases, you might seriously consider coming to a lifestyle program like the one Wildwood Lifestyle Center offers. Many times lifestyle strategies prevent and even reverse type 2 diabetes and significantly help hypertension. In some cases, the judicious use of medicine is important for controlling these diseases.
3. Eat adequate but not excessive amounts of protein
Excess protein, especially animal protein, has the potential for damaging the filtering units of the kidneys, especially if one is over 65 or has another risk factor associated with CKD.3 Most people with early CKD do not know they even have it and are unaware that their higher-protein diet accelerates the decline in kidney function more than if they consumed a lower protein diet. Reducing protein intake and substituting soy protein for animal proteins can help early stages of CKD. Soy milk consumption is associated with better blood pressure control among diabetic patients with kidney disease.4 Increased consumption of vegetable protein has been linked with prolonged survival among individuals with kidney disease.5
4. Limit the sodium
Although we need a little sodium and salt, a high sodium diet accelerates decline in kidney function. Lowering salt intake improves the heart and kidney health of chronic kidney disease patients.6 Aged cheese, processed foods, and pickles are typically high in sodium. It is a wise policy to read labels. One teaspoon of salt per a day is enough for healthy adults. If you have hypertension, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease, follow your doctor’s and dietician’s instruction.
5. Go easy on soft drinks
Those who frequently consume diet soft drinks are more likely to experience decline in kidney function. Individuals who drank two or more diet sodas per day doubled the risk of faster kidney function decline. This was even after the study authors accounted for age, caloric intake, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, physical activity, and cardiovascular disease.7 Because of their high fructose corn syrup content, regular consumption of non-diet sodas may also adversely affect the kidneys.
6. Prevent and promptly treat
Promptly treat bladder infections as bacteria can travel from the blood, up the ureters, to the kidneys. Frequent urinary tract infections may lead to CKD. A few suggestions here: Drink plenty of water. Cranberries and blueberries help prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder walls. Ladies, after using the toilet, wipe from front to back.
7. Get tested
As previously mentioned, the risk factors for kidney decline include obesity, especially-apple shaped obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Glomerulonephritis is a group of diseases that cause inflammation and damage to the kidney’s filtering units. Recurrent urinary tract infections and polycystic disease may lead to CKD. Moderate to severe psoriasis is associated with renal decline. Obstructions like kidney stones, tumors or an enlarged prostate gland in men may contribute to CKD. If you have any risk factors, please get the three simple tests that can detect CKD: blood pressure, urine albumin and serum creatinine.
Please note CKD can affect anyone, but men with CKD are 50% more likely to progress to kidney failure than women. The risk for developing chronic kidney disease is 3.8 times higher in African Americans and 2 times higher in Native Americans than for whites. Asian and Hispanic populations are also at high risk for CKD.8
8. Engage in regular moderate exercise. Avoid extreme exercise like running, which reduces renal blood flow to just 1%. That is not good. However, increased physical activity may slow kidney function decline in the early stages of kidney disease.9
According to the National Kidney foundations, the following are possible symptoms of chronic kidney disease. You may notice that you:
- feel more tired and have less energy
- have trouble concentrating
- have a poor appetite
- have trouble sleeping
- have muscle cramping at night
- have swollen feet and ankles
- have puffiness around your eyes, especially in the morning
- have dry, itchy skin
- need to urinate more often, especially at night.
Since most people may not have any significant symptoms until their kidney disease is advanced, people at risk for CKD will want to be very pro-active and get the appropriate lab work. The good news is that if caught early enough, its progression can, in many cases, be slowed down considerably. However, if you go undiagnosed too long until symptoms develop, dialysis might be your only option.
- www.sciencenewsline.com/articles/2010051712000039.html, Kidney function and damage predicts Mortality Risk, May 17, 2010
- Prediabetes? What does it mean for your kidneys? – National Kidney Foundation.
3. www.webmd.com/diet/…/high-protein-diets-can-hurt-kidneys – WebMD.
4. Miraghajani, MS, Soy milk consumption and blood pressure among type 2 diabetic patients with nephropathy. J Ren Nutr. 2013 Jul; 23(4):277-282.e1.
5. American Society of Nephrology (ASN). “Consuming more vegetable protein may help kidney disease patients live longer.” Science Daily. 7 November 2013. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107103400.htm.
6. Lowering salt intake improves heart, kidney health of chronic kidney disease patients.” ScienceDaily.November2
- Miraghajani, MS, Soy milk consumption and blood pressure among type 2 diabetic patients with nephropathy. J Ren Nutr. 2013 Jul; 23(4):277-282.e1
- American Society of Nephrology (ASN). “Consuming more vegetable protein may help kidney disease patients live longer.” Science Daily. 7 November 2013. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107103400.htm
- Lowering salt intake improves heart, kidney health of chronic kidney disease patients.” ScienceDaily.November2013. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107191820.htm
- American Society of Nephrology. “Diets High in Sodium and Artificially Sweetened Soda Linked To Kidney Function Decline.” 2 November 2009. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091101132543.htm
- Robinson-Cohen C, et al, Physical Activity and Change in Estimated GFR among Persons with CKD. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 2013; DOI: 10.1681/ASN.2013040392