Did you know that kidney disease is the cause of more than 90,000 Americans’ deaths every year? That is more than the total combination of both breast and prostate cancer. Because our kidneys play such a vital role in keeping us alive and healthy, we need to do our part to keep them safe. Small daily lifestyle changes can really improve the overall health of your kidneys.
Replace Salt With Herbs
Though salt is commonly used for improving the taste in food, it’s also widely known to make it much more difficult for your kidneys to remove excess water from your body, as salt makes your body retain water. According to the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, eating too much salt is a direct translation into some causes of kidney disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that people should try to limit their sodium intake to a maximum of one teaspoon per day, which is much less than the average American uses each day.
Limit Your Intake Of Painkillers
The New England Journal of Medicine says that strong use of painkillers like Tylenol or Advil is the direct cause of at least 5,000 kidney failures every year in the United States. They also came out to say that the worst time to take a painkiller is after you’ve fasted. This is not to say that the once-in-a-while painkiller for minor pain is not okay- it is. Painkillers are so dangerous because they decrease blood flow to the kidneys, which after some time gets more and more harmful.
Don’t Underestimate A Cold
The CDC says that on average, a person will have to deal with somewhere between two to three colds each year. Most people think that the common cold is nothing to stress about, but you shouldn’t take them so lightly. If you are someone who always leaves colds without a doctor’s treatment, your body will eventually start to make more antibodies, and after a while, they will start to become unhealthy for your kidneys. 72 percent of Americans stay home from work when they’re sick, and 100 percent of those people should be seeing a doctor!
Don’t Wait To Use The Restroom
We’re sure you knew this already, but the longer urine stays in your body, the worse it is for you. Actually, holding in your urge to use the restroom is actually one of the easiest ways to develop a kidney problem. Urine is a breeding ground for bacteria, and there’s a reason it should be leaving your body. If you hold in your urine long enough and it makes its way to your kidneys, you’ll regret not getting off of the couch to use the restroom a while ago.
Say Goodbye To Those Cigarettes
Nearly everyone these days knows the dangers that smoking can bring to the health of your heart and lungs, but were you aware that smoking is also killing your kidneys? A study from 2000 published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that chain smokers, both current and former, have put themselves at an even more elevated risk of getting kidney disease. Smoking builds up a high level of creatine in your body, which is toxic for the kidneys.
Try To Avoid Processed Foods
Have you ever wondered what is in those processed foods that’s keeping them fresh for so long? It’s sodium. An extremely high level of it, too. There are also other ingredients in these foods that contain levels much higher than your body should be taking in, like potassium and phosphorus, which are totally fine in a small dose, but too much is dangerous. Kidneys are usually great at filtering potassium, but too much can be stressful on the kidneys. For the sake of your overall health and your kidney health, try to limit your processed food intake to a minimum.
Stay Away From Soda
Did you know that a 12-ounce soda has the same amount of sugar as almost four donuts? Soda has absolutely no nutritional value, unlike some of its fruit drink counterparts. It has been scientifically proven that consuming more than two sodas per day will highly increase your risk of kidney disease. Sugar isn’t the only bad guy here; thanks to the high amount of phosphoric acid in soda, your body is also at risk from that.
Get Enough Sleep
Proven research from the University of Chicago shows that poor sleep habits directly contribute to an increased risk of kidney disease. Compared to people who got a full night’s sleep, those who slept for six-and-a-half hours per day or less had a 19 percent increase in their risk of kidney disease. Your kidneys can’t go to sleep until you do, so the more late nights you have, your kidneys are experiencing the same. Over time, the lack of a normal sleep schedule can lead to kidney failure.
Don’t Stop A Prescription Early
No matter how badly you might want to stop your prescription after you’re not feeling sick anymore, you shouldn’t. Quitting the routing of a prescription cold turkey without guidance from your doctor can be very dangerous. If you are taking medications to help blood pressure or pain, they can actually cause some real damage to your kidneys if taken randomly instead of regularly. Your kidneys live for a good routine, and confusing them all the time will not be good.
Do Your Homework On Supplements
If you are going to take daily vitamins or supplements, be sure to do your research on just how big the dosage you’re taking is. It may not seem like it, but taking too much of any vitamin is harmful, specifically to your kidneys. Specifically, make sure to check the dosage for cranberry, willow bark, wormwood oil, licorice, geranium, and vitamin C. An overload of vitamin C and cranberry can really increase your risks of developing kidney stones. Even a natural supplement like turmeric can be harmful if you take it with certain medications.
Keep Your Exercise Routine In-Tact
Having a good exercise routine isn’t just necessary for those who want to look good, but also for those who want to feel good internally. The National Kidney Foundation says that having a regular exercise routine can lower blood pressure, improve sleep habits, and enhance overall muscle function. Inner health like this directly translates to healthy kidneys. 150 minutes of light exercise per week is all you need.
Exercise In Moderation
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as exercising yourself to death. When you jump right into an intense workout, your body sometimes can’t handle it. When you work out too intensely, you can injure many muscles at once, and when you do, harmful enzymes get released into your body, which 40 percent of the time, results in kidney failure. Rhabdomyolysis is rare, but it is very dangerous. Most cases of Rhabdo occur in those who are just starting to work out when they don’t yet know their physical limits. Muscles don’t just appear, they need to be built up slowly.
Go Easy On Energy Drinks
In a study done by Frontiers in Public Health kidney disease has been closely tied to drinking energy drinks, specifically by young kids and teens. Too much caffeine can increase blood pressure and stress levels, which leads directly to kidney disease. The levels of amino acid taurine in energy drinks are also extremely dangerous, especially to people who already have kidney disorders.
Are You Getting Enough Water Each Day?
The kidney’s main job is to filter water out of the body, but it can’t filter out water if you’re dehydrated. The National Hydration Council says that kidney stones usually result from chronic dehydration. When you are experiencing a water deficiency, your urine has a much higher concentration of minerals, which crystalizes in your kidneys, creating stones. It is estimated that nine cups for women and 13 for men is about how much water you should consume each day. When you feel thirtsy, drink water.
Watch Your Red Meat Intakes
As confirmed by the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, red meat can be extremely toxic for the kidneys when eaten too frequently. Luckily, plant-based proteins can work to repair kidney injuries. If you were to replace one serving of red meat per week with a plant-based protein, your risk of kidney disease would decrease by 62 percent. It’s okay to eat red meat once in a while, but eating it regularly will harm your kidneys after a while.
Get Those Legs Moving
If your job requires you to sit and stare at a computer all day, you should try to be conscious of standing up every hour or so for a few minutes. A 2018 study discovered that even just an hour of small physical activity per day can decrease risk for kidney failure. Researchers believe sitting down for long periods of time is linked to kidney failure via blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Your kidneys will thank you if you stand up every once in a while.
Reduce Butter Habits
Many people are vocal advocates to replace of butter with margarine, but this isn’t really such a good idea. Margarine doesn’t contain the harmful things that butter does, but it contains different harmful things. Fats that are found in both spreads can raise your cholesterol levels, which is harmful to your kidneys. It’s okay to eat butter occasionally, but it’s dangerous to eat it every day.
Overeating can put your kidneys at serious risk for disease or failure, because the more you eat, the more food they have to filter. The worst combination is consuming too much protein, carbs, and fat in one meal. Most traditional holiday meals include all three of these food groups, so it’s extra important to watch what you’re eating during the holiday season.
Try To Lower Stress Levels
Research has proven time and time again that stress is harmful to your kidneys, but the exact reason is still unknown. Some predictions are that stress raises blood pressure and that scars your kidneys. High stress levels lead to less eating and sleeping, which also directly affects already kidneys, especially when they’re already struggling. Do your best to manage stress levels before they start to impact your physical health.
Use A Sugar Substitute
The real health concern is not from consuming small amounts of sugar, but rather, when your blood sugar reaches extreme levels. Having high blood sugar or diabetes can cause futher kidney diseases because they’re working extra hard and end up pumping out too much blood. A study done at the University of Montreal proved that there was a big link between diabetes and kidney disease; one can cause the other, and vice versa. Make sure to monitor your sugar intake and be careful about what you’re putting into your body.
Artificial Sweeteners Also Aren’t So Good
Despite the fact that Splenda or another artificial sweetener may have no calories, it’s actually more harmful than regular sugar. A study conducted in 2009 discovered that consuming diet soda instead of regular can increase your risk of kidney disease by up to thirty percent. Consuming two or less artificially-sweetened drinks per day won’t do so much harm to your kidneys, but further research is still in the works.
Alcohol forces your kidneys into overdrive to be able to filter out the toxins you’re ingesting, which means that overdrinking is super harmful. Consuming greater than four alcoholic drinks every day qualifies as “overdrinking.” In the opposite direction, a different type of research shows that drinking one glass of something each day (having seven drinks per week) actually might lower your body’s risk for kidney disease by thirty percent. If you want to drink, just do it in moderation.
Steer Clear Of Body Enhancements
While you think you are doing something great for your muscles when you are taking steroids or body enhancements, you are killing your kidneys. Upwards of 90 percent of bodybuilders have ended up developing kidney scarring from using muscle enhancements. After these athletes stopped using enhancements, their kidneys eventually healed and regathered their strength. Steroids cause an increase cholesterol levels, a decrease in protein levels, an increase in swelling throughout your body; all of which are extremely harmful to the kidneys.
Monitor Your Heartburn Medication
Some heartburn medications are called PPIs, and unlike some other heartburn medications, PPIs should not be taken every day. These drugs suppress the acid in your stomach, which can cause some serious harm to your kidneys. Taking a PPI more often than seldomnly will increase your risk of kidney disease by up to twenty-six percent. Luckily, there are multiple types of heartburn medicine, like H2 Blockers, which don’t come hand-in-hand with these risks.
Check Up On Your Blood Pressure Levels
The American Heart Association suggests that everyone should check their blood pressure at least every two years. Waiting any longer than this can put you at risk for kidney disease. High blood pressure can be very dangerous to the blood vessels inside of your kidneys, which can cause damage if they fail. If this does happen, your blood pressure levels are at risk of increasing rapidly, which is not safe. Blood pressure is called “the silent killer” for a reason; you won’t know that something is wrong unless you get it checked out.
You Don’t Need So Much Coffee
Caffeine causes a rapid increase in blood pressure levels, which can be harmful to your kidneys when consumed too heavily. Scientific research has not yet confirmed exactly how much coffee crosses the threshold of being dangerous, but keep these side effects in mind. The National Kidney Foundation says that sticking to less than four cups of coffee per day should keep you on the safe side. In addition, be mindful of coffee additives like cream or flavored syrups, as these contain a lot of sugar and fat.
Don’t Eat Too Much Shellfish
A 2014 Journal of the American Society of Nephrology study found that shellfish contains an extremely harmful, if not totally toxic, chemical referred to as domoic acid, or “Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning”, and it can cause some real harm to your kidneys. In even the smallest amount, this acid can still wreak havoc on your kidneys. While sometimes seafood has health benefits, eating too much shellfish is very harmful to your kidneys. Seafood does not have as many health benefits as people think it does!
Medical Photos Can Be Harmful
MRIs, while usually not conducted on one patient very often, can still cause harmful side effects because of the dye used to differentiate colors in the body. This dye can cause a harmful disease called Contrast Induced Nephropathy (CIN), which causes kidneys to completely fail for up to three days. Luckily this disease is reversible, but it is still extremely dangerous.
Stick To Only The Good Kinds Of Fat
Our bodies need healthy fats in order to remain healthy; these healthy fats are called monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Trans fats, which are often found in processed foods like dough, are waht people should keep their eyes peeled for and try to avoid. The British Medical Journal proved that saturated fat isn’t bad for your heart, but consuming trans fat can raise your risk of disease by up to as much as twenty-one percent.
One Drink Per Day Can Be Healthy
The Postgraduate Medical Journal published research in 2001 which analyzed over 100 studies, coming to the conclusion that drinking– in moderation– reinforces heart health. Enjoying one drink per day may be able to lower your risk of heart disease, but drinking too often can seriously increase health risks.
Sleep For Seven Or More Hours
Researchers were studying people for over 10 years and published what they found in 2014. The results concluded that of all of the habits these people had in common, it was solidly proven that getting at least seven hours of sleep per night will drastically decrease your risk for having any type of non-genetic heart problems. Deep sleep sparks chemicals that lower your heart rate and blood pressure, which means that lacking sleep regularly can increase your risk of heart problems by up to fifty-eight percent.
Keep Your Stress In Check
As your body undergoes intense stresses, your breaths start to get shorter, your muscles get tensed up, and your heart rate rapidly increases. While these are all common side effects of stress, they can have serious consequences when it comes to your heart health. Chronic stress will eventually start to deteriorate your heart, even if you have no previous concern for heart problems. Chronic stress is different than the normal stress that everyone experiences sometimes; it has debilitating effects on your heart health. Try to do ten to fifteen minutes of stress-relieving activities per day.
Eat More Fruits And Veggies
Studies show that five servings, or the equivalent of about 2.5 cups of fruits and veggies each day, can dramatically lower your risks of developing some kind of heart disease. Consuming 10 servings of fruit every day can decrease your risks by up to twenty-eight percent and can decrease your risk for premature death by up to thirty-one percent.
Cut Back On The TV Binging
Researchers spent 20 years researching a group of 70,000 women and released their findings in 2015. When the study began, just about every woman involved was suffering from diabetes or heart disease, but by the end of the study most of them lowered their risk of heart attack by ninety-two percent. A change that all 70,000 of these women made was that they started to limit themselves to watching TV for only seven hours each day. In general, watching more TV means that you’re getting up and exercising less, which is quite unhealthy. It’s actually been proven that laying down to watch TV for four hours every day is more harmful to your body than sitting at a desk job all day.
Exercise For Fifteen Minutes Each Day
Exercise is great for your body; it can strengthen your muscles, reduce stress, and many other great things. The American Journal of Medicine conducted a study which proved that just 15 minutes of daily exercise can increase your life expectancy. By spending 15 minutes of your day walking or doing another activity, you can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Being Social Can Help Your Heart
Did you know that it’s actually been proven that having a stable social life and a reliable friend group can decrease the risk of heart problems? Researchers from Boston Scientific believe that engaging yourself in positive social interactions can reduce stress and depression levels, both of which can put you at serious risk for heart disease. You may want to think twice next time you try to bail out on your weekend plans.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Drinking five glasses of water each day will help to improve heart health in many ways. Over time, your heart will weaken and you may contract serious heart diseases if you drink less than two cups of water per day. When your blood thickens due to dehydration, your heart has to work harder to pump through your body. In turn, drinking more water will lower your blood’s thickness and make it easier for your heart to do its job properly.
Stand Up Frequently
Sitting down and not moving from your desk all day puts a strain on many different parts of your body, and your heart is one of the biggest ones. 41 studies conducted in 2015 showed that being immobile and sitting in a chair all day drastically increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. 2019 research proved that standing up for an extra hour each day can lower your risk of heart disease by up to twenty-six percent. Some ways to fix this problem are to get a standing desk, take brief walks around the office throughout the day, and leave your car a few rows back in the parking lot.
Measure Blood Pressure
high blood pressure has been proven to be the leading cause of heart disease across the board. High blood pressure levels lead to hypertensive heart disease, which causes your heart to thicken and and your arteries to narrow. Even if you don’t currently have high blood pressure, the American Heart Association advises that monitoring blood pressure levels should be at the top of your healthcare priorities.
Always Check Up On Yourself
If you have haven’t checked your blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar for a long period of time, you should do it as soon as possible. You should aim to check your blood pressure once every year, check your blood glucose every three years, and monitor your cholesterol every four to six years. Just because you have been healthy up to this point in your life, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about your health deteriorating in the future. You should always be monitoring your levels.
Know What Your BMI Should Be
For doctors, discussing your weight is less of a conversation about physical appearances and more of a talk about body and heart health. A 2018 study in JAMA Cardiology proved that having a high Body Mass Index (BMI) can put you at a much greater risk for developing heart disease. Ask your doctor what your BMI should be, do not search a simple black and white chart online, and try to keep your BMI in this range.
Brush Your Teeth Every Day
You may not have ever known this, but gum disease carries a lot of the same risks as heart disease. According to Harvard Health, harmful bacteria in your gums can sometimes travel into blood vessels, can inflame your arteries and clot your blood, increasing your risk of having a stroke.
E-Cigarettes Are Extremely Harmful
According to a research author for BMJ, “no safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease”, not even switeching from a regular cigarette to an e-cigarette. A 2017 research study showed that smoking even just one cigarette per day can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. E-cigarettes absolutely do not lower these chances; actually adding e-cigarettes into your routine increases chances.
Stay Away From Secondhand Smoke
Inhaling secondhand smoke can skyrocket your risks for developing harmful diseases. A study conducted by Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects says that breathing in secondhand smoke can still heighten your chances of heart disease by up to thirty percent. Breathing in someone’s seconhand smoke can cause you to inhale over 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which can cause various types of cancer.
Vitamins and Minerals
Making sure to eat a well-balanced diet full of whole fruits and fresh vegetables is not only important for your overall health, but it’s very important for kidney function. When you lack vital vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B6, C, and D, you are single-handedly increasing your risk of kidney stones or failure.
Even though we usually hear about how avocados are a healthy staple in a well-balanced diet, people with kidney disease might need to stay away. Avocados are chock full of super high levels of potassium; in fact, just one cup (150 grams) of avocado has 727 mg of potassium. To put it into perspective, that is is double the amount of potassium than a medium-sized banana contains. Because of this, avocados, both whole and in guacamole, should not be consumed by someone who needs to eat less potassium.
Canned foods are generally purchased for the purpose of being cheap and convenient. Unfortunately, most canned foods have extreme amounts of sodium, as salt is added to be able to increase the food’s shelf life at the grocery store. This is why it’s recommended to people with kidney disease to avoid or limit eating canned foods. If you really want to eat them, know that draining and rinsing canned foods can decrease the sodium content by 33-80%, depending on what it is.
A lot of times, whole wheat bread is usually recommended over white bread. Even though whole wheat bread is a healthier choice due to its high fiber content, white bread tends to be the recommended option for those who have a kidney disease. Whole wheat bread contains a lot of phosphorus and potassium-rich ingredients, and the more bran and whole grains in the bread, the higher those contents are. All bread, whether it is whole grain or white, contains higher amounts of sodium than most people realize.
Similar to bread, whole grain rice contains much more potassium than white rice. One cup of cooked brown rice contains 150 mg of phosphorus and 154 mg of potassium, but one cup of cooked white rice only has 69 mg of phosphorus and 54 mg of potassium. Some good substitutes for rice are buckwheat or couscous, since they have less phosphorus yet are still very nutritious.
While bananas are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium, one medium banana has 422 mg of potassium. If you eat a banana every day, it may start to become difficult to keep your potassium intake under your daily recommended value of 2,000 mg. To add onto this unfortunate news, many other tropical fruits also have high potassium levels. The good news is that pineapples contain a lot less potassium than other tropical fruits, so they are a suitable alternative.