How Is Your Lifestyle Affecting Your Kidney Health?

Diet, exer­cise, lim­it­ing alco­hol — you’ve prob­a­bly heard over and over again about how your lifestyle affects every­thing from your heart health to your weight to your skin. But one thing that doesn’t always get dis­cussed is how your lifestyle affects your kidneys. 

Your kid­neys are two bean-shaped organs that are respon­si­ble for fil­ter­ing waste out of your blood. If they become dam­aged or you devel­op kid­ney dis­ease, and your kid­neys stop func­tion­ing cor­rect­ly, waste can build up in your body. Over time, untreat­ed kid­ney dis­ease can progress to life-threat­en­ing kid­ney failure. 

The good news is that you have a lot of con­trol over your kid­ney health. While there are some risk fac­tors that you can’t change, like a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of kid­ney dis­ease, there are oth­ers you can. 

Here are 4 lifestyle changes you can make to pre­vent kid­ney dis­ease or slow down the pro­gres­sion of exist­ing disease. 

1. Drink enough water. 

When your kid­neys are func­tion­ing cor­rect­ly, they remove waste and extra water from your blood to cre­ate urine. Then, the urine flows to the blad­der through tubes called ureters. 

Water plays sev­er­al roles in this process, includ­ing help­ing your kid­neys remove waste from blood (in the form of urine) and keep­ing blood ves­sels open so that blood can bring nutri­ents to your kid­neys. If you don’t get enough water, your kid­neys have to work hard­er. And if you’re severe­ly dehy­drat­ed, blood and nutri­ents can’t reach your kid­neys, which can cause kid­ney damage. 

Stay­ing hydrat­ed is also vital for pre­vent­ing kid­ney stones — mass­es that devel­op from crys­tals in your urine. Kid­ney stones leave your body (“pass”) through urine. If they get stuck, they can cause a urine back-up. While this doesn’t typ­i­cal­ly cause dam­age, pass­ing a stone can be incred­i­bly painful. 

There’s no mag­ic num­ber for how much water you need, but healthy adults gen­er­al­ly need about 4 to 6 cups per day. Drink­ing too much water is rarely a prob­lem, but there is an excep­tion: If you have kid­ney fail­ure and are on dial­y­sis, you may need to severe­ly restrict your water intake. 

Also read: The Ben­e­fits of Drink­ing Water Go Beyond Quench­ing Thirst 

2. Address your stress. 

Stress caus­es phys­i­cal reac­tions like increased breath­ing and heart rate, high blood pres­sure, and greater lev­els of sug­ars and fats in your blood. These reac­tions are nor­mal and are usu­al­ly temporary. 

How­ev­er, if you’re con­stant­ly under high lev­els of stress, the reac­tions don’t always stop. Left unchecked, they can lead to seri­ous health prob­lems includ­ing kid­ney dam­age. In addi­tion, stress can neg­a­tive­ly affect your men­tal health — which can make exist­ing kid­ney prob­lems worse. 

There are many ways to reduce stress, from get­ting more sleep to jour­nal­ing to talk­ing to a men­tal health pro­fes­sion­al. If you already have kid­ney dis­ease, work with your nephrol­o­gist to ensure that men­tal health care is part of your treat­ment plan. 

3. Adopt a kid­ney-friend­ly diet. 

One of the diets most rec­om­mend­ed by lead­ing health orga­ni­za­tions is the Dietary Approach­es to Stop Hyper­ten­sion Diet (DASH diet). This diet low­ers blood pres­sure, which can reduce your risk for kid­ney dis­ease. Fol­low­ing the DASH Diet can also pro­tect against kid­ney stones. 

If you already have kid­ney dis­ease, nutri­tion is a bit more com­plex. That’s because diet rec­om­men­da­tions change based on which stage of dis­ease you’re in. For instance, in the ear­li­er stages, you may just need to lim­it your sodi­um. But as the dis­ease pro­gress­es, you may need to start lim­it­ing potas­si­um or phos­pho­rus and cut­ting back on por­tion sizes. 

To learn more about keep­ing your kid­neys healthy, sched­ule an appoint­ment with a Duly Health and Care nephrol­o­gist or your pri­ma­ry care provider.

4. Get the right amount of exercise.

Reg­u­lar phys­i­cal activ­i­ty pro­tects against con­di­tions that are risk fac­tors for kid­ney dis­ease, like type 2 dia­betes and high blood pres­sure. It’s also par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant if you already have prob­lems with your kid­neys. Exer­cise can help your body bet­ter con­trol blood pres­sure, improve your cho­les­terol, and main­tain a healthy weight — all of which can slow down the pro­gres­sion of kid­ney dis­ease. Fur­ther, it’s a great way to treat men­tal health symp­toms that often come with kid­ney dis­ease, like depres­sion or anxiety.

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