One-third of people in USA are at risk for kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects more than 1 in 7 U.S. adults—an estimated 37 million Americans. Chronic kidney disease involves a gradual loss of kidney function. Want to lower your risk for CKD? This blog reveals lifestyle practices that reduce your risk for chronic kidney disease.
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. Obesity increases the lifetime risk of CKD by 25% compared with individuals with normal weight.1 CKD 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.2 Chronic kidney disease triples the risk of dying from the coronavirus COVID-19.
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. 3
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. Ideally, you want your blood pressure to be consistently below 120/80, but not in the range of low blood pressure.
If you do develop these diabetes or hypertension, you might seriously consider coming to a lifestyle program like the one Wildwood Lifestyle Center offers. Many times lifestyle strategies prevent or can 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.4 Most people with early CKD do not know they even have it. They 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 to and substituting soy protein for animal protein can help early stages of CKD. Soy milk consumption is associated with better blood pressure control among diabetic patients with kidney disease.5 Increased consumption of vegetable protein has been linked with prolonged survival among individuals with kidney disease.6
4. Limit the sodium.
Although we need a little sodium and salt, a high sodium diet accelerates decline in kidney function. Intake of excess sodium loading impairs function of tiny blood vessels (arterioles) and can increase the stiffness of arteries which increases the risk for hypertension. Hypertension, like diabetes, damages the kidneys.
Lowering salt intake improves the heart and kidney health of chronic kidney disease patients.7 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, prediabetes, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease, follow your doctor’s and dietitian’s instructions.
5. Go easy on soft drinks.
Those who frequently consume diet soft drinks are more likely to experience decline in kidney function. Individuals who drink two or more diet sodas per day have double the risk of faster kidney function decline. This was true even after the researchers accounted for age, caloric intake, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, physical activity, and cardiovascular disease.8 Because of their high fructose corn syrup content, regular consumption of non-diet sodas may also adversely affect the kidneys. Consuming artificial sweetened beverages also damages the kidneys.
6. Emphasize whole fruits and vegetables.
Whole fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium. Higher levels of urinary potassium excretion, which closely correlate with intake amounts, were linked with a slower decline of kidney function and a lower incidence of cardiovascular complications among patients with type 2 diabetes and normal kidney function.9 Potassium is found in fruits and vegetables. Individuals with serious decline in kidney function need their potassium intake restricted and should only consume low-potassium plant foods in their diet and under a dietician’s supervision.
7. Prevent and promptly treat bladder infections.
Frequent urinary tract infections may lead to CKD. Bacteria can travel from the bladder, up the ureters, and to the kidneys. 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. Cultivate a regular schedule.
An internal clock within the kidneys plays an important role in maintaining balance within the body. The kidneys possess such an intrinsic circadian clock that regulates and coordinates a variety of the organ’s functions.10.
Disturbed circadian rhythms adversely affect the kidneys. Unfortunately, CKD negatively influences our body clocks. Impaired renal function is associated with later onset, shorter duration, and increased sleep fragmentation.11 In individuals with type 1 diabetes, circadian disruption precedes microalbuminuria (protein in the urine) or other clinical evidence of kidney disease.12
8. 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 kidneys’ filtering units. Recurrent urinary tract infections and polycystic disease may lead to CKD. Moderate to severe psoriasis is associated with renal decline. Certain autoimmune diseases increase the risk for CKD. 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.
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 the symptoms develop, dialysis might be your only option.
9. Know the symptoms of CKD!
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. The Asian and Hispanic populations are also at high risk for CKD.13
According to the National Kidney Foundation, 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.
10. Improve your gut health.
Inside your gut resides over 100 trillion microorganisms. Many are beneficial and release anti-inflammatory compounds that protect the health. Unfortunately, we have a number of unfriendly gut bacteria that release pro-inflammatory compounds that attack the gut integrity, enter into the blood, and encourage chronic inflammation. Mounting evidence suggests that chronic systemic inflammation poses risk factors for the cardiovascular complications of chronic kidney disease. If you are at risk for CKD, take special care of your gut health! See these validated ways of improving gut health! It is so much more than eating a high fiber diet and taking probiotics.
11. 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.14 Regular exercise improves physical and walking capacity for patients with non-dialysis CKD.15
Disclaimer: The information in this article is helpful and is educational. It is not the author’s or authors’ or Wildwood Health Institute’s intent to substitute the blog article for diagnosis, counseling, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
- Friedman A. Management of Obesity in Adults with CKD. JASN 32(4):p 777-790, April 2021.
- 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
- www.webmd.com/diet/…/high-protein-diets-can-hurt-kidneys – WebMD
- 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.
- American Society of Nephrology. “Dietary potassium may help prevent kidney, heart problems in diabetics.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151113050942.htm>.
- American Society of Nephrology (ASN). “Kidneys have an innate clock that affects many metabolic processes in the body.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160407221703.htm>
- Mohandas, R., et al., (2022). Circadian rhythms and renal pathophysiology. The Journal of clinical investigation, 132(3), e148277. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI148277
- Lurbe E., et al. Increase in nocturnal blood pressure and progression to microalbuminuria in type 1 diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2002;347(11):797–805. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa013410.
- Robinson-Cohen C, et al, Physical Activity and Change in Estimated GFR among Persons with CKD. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 2013
- Nakamura, K., Sasaki, T., Yamamoto, S. et al. Effects of exercise on kidney and physical function in patients with non-dialysis chronic kidney disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sci Rep 10, 18195 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75405-x