5 Healthy Lifestyle and Diet Habits for Kidney Disease Prevention

Summary: Incorporating a kidney-friendly diet and healthy lifestyle habits can help you stave off kidney disease.

Your kidneys do more work to keep you healthy than you can imagine. These bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, are crucial in maintaining your overall well-being.

Yet, many people overlook the importance of kidney health until problems occur. According to recent statistics from the CDC, over 37 million American adults are living with kidney disease, many without knowing it. Millions more are at risk due to unhealthy lifestyles and dietary habits.

In this article, we will explore five essential lifestyle and kidney health diet habits you can incorporate into your routine to maintain good kidney health.

Lifestyle and diet habits you should incorporate for healthy kidneys

Let’s dig deeper into five key habits that promote optimal kidney health:

1. Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity is a significant risk factor for kidney disease. Excess body weight puts strain on the kidneys, leading to complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which in turn leads to kidney damage.

When you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, you reduce the burden on your kidneys and lower your risk of developing kidney-related problems.

One effective way to manage weight is through a combination of regular physical activity and a balanced diet. Engage in at least 30 minutes of non-strenuous exercise most days of the week, such as brisk walking, swimming or cycling to help your heart and maintain an optimal blood pressure level.

2. Follow a balanced diet

Dietary choices have a significant impact on kidney health. A balanced diet plays a crucial role in kidney disease prevention and supporting optimal kidney function. Here are some recommendations for a kidney health diet:

  • Increase intake of fruits and vegetables: These are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help protect the kidneys from damage. Aim to include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables such as red bell peppers, berries, cabbage, arugula leaves and more in your daily meals.
  • Choose whole grains: Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat are excellent sources of fiber and nutrients. They also have a lower glycemic index compared to refined grains, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes-related kidney damage.
  • Limit your sodium intake: High sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure and fluid retention, putting needless strain on the kidneys. Opt for fresh, whole foods over processed meals and season your meals with herbs and spices instead of salt. Aim to consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
  • Reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates: Sugary beverages and foods high in refined carbohydrates can contribute to obesity, diabetes and ultimately to kidney disease. Choose water or unsweetened beverages and opt for whole fruits instead of fruit juices or sugary snacks.
  • Moderate protein intake: While protein is essential for overall health, excessive protein consumption can overload the kidneys, especially in individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions. Choose leaner sources of protein such as fish, poultry, tofu and legumes, but consume them in moderation.

3. Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is essential for kidney function. Water helps the kidneys remove waste products and toxins from the body through urine.

Insufficient fluid intake can lead to dehydration, which can impair kidney function and increase the risk of frequent urinary tract infections and kidney stones.

To stay adequately hydrated, aim to drink enough water throughout the day. The Institute of Medicine recommends an average daily intake of about 125 oz (3.7 liters or about 13 cups) for men and 91 oz (2.7 liters or about 9 cups) for women, that includes fluids from both beverages and food.

If need be, adjust your fluid intake based on factors such as climate, physical activity level and individual hydration needs to stay healthy and protect your kidneys.

4. Manage blood pressure and blood sugar

High blood pressure (hypertension) and uncontrolled blood sugar (hyperglycemia) are primary risk factors for kidney disease. Increased blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, while high blood sugar can impair kidney function over time.

To manage blood pressure and blood sugar levels, consider the following strategies:

  • Monitor blood pressure regularly: Keep track of your blood pressure readings at home and work with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized management plan. Lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, stress reduction and limiting alcohol intake can help lower blood pressure.
  • Control blood sugar: If you have diabetes, it’s essential to manage your blood sugar levels by regular monitoring and through medication, and lifestyle changes. Follow a diabetes-friendly diet rich in fiber, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats, and aim for regular physical activity to improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.

5. Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can harm kidney health and increase the risk of kidney disease. Smoking damages blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the kidneys, while alcohol can lead to dehydration and liver damage, both of which can affect kidney function.

If you smoke, consider quitting to protect your kidneys and overall health. Seek support from healthcare professionals, smoking cessation programs or support groups to help you quit successfully.

Additionally, if you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Preserve your kidneys with healthy lifestyle habits

Your kidneys work hard for you every day, so show them some love by taking care of them with these simple yet effective habits and changes to your routine.

As you start implementing these lifestyle changes, remember to prioritize regular check-ups and screenings to catch any potential kidney problems early.

While on the path of making the needed lifestyle changes, be sure to contact us at Mutual of Omaha, where we remain committed to help providing you with the resources you need to live a better and healthier life.

FAQs on kidney health

1. What are the early signs of kidney problems?

Early signs of kidney problems may include changes in urination patterns swelling in the ankles, feet, or hands, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and persistent itching. The onset of kidney disease can often go unnoticed. It’s important to be vigilant if you have predisposing factors like diabetes and hypertension.

2. Can I prevent kidney stones through diet?

Yes, certain dietary modifications can greatly reduce the risk of kidney stone formation. These include increasing fluid intake to maintain adequate hydration, limiting sodium and oxalate-rich foods (such as spinach, nuts and chocolate), moderating animal protein consumption and incorporating foods rich in calcium and citrate (such as low-fat dairy products and citrus fruits) into your diet.

3. How does diabetes affect kidney health?

Diabetes is a significant risk factor for kidney disease, as high blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys over time. This damage can lead to a condition called diabetic nephropathy, characterized by proteinuria (excessive protein in the urine), reduced kidney function and eventual kidney failure if left untreated.

4. Are there any specific foods I should avoid if I have kidney disease?

Individuals with kidney disease may need to restrict certain nutrients in their diet to prevent further damage to the kidneys. These may include limiting sodium to help control blood pressure and reduce fluid retention, moderating potassium and phosphorus intake to avoid electrolyte imbalances and restricting protein consumption to reduce the burden on the kidney.

5. How much water should I drink for optimal kidney health?

Adequate hydration is essential for kidney function. As a general guideline, aim to drink enough fluids throughout the day to maintain pale yellow urine and prevent dehydration. Medical professionals recommend an average daily intake of about 125 oz (3.7 liters or about 13 cups) for men and 91 oz (2.7 liters or about 9 cups) for women.