Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, which is why most people are concerned about the health of their heart and generally recognize the critical warning signs of a problem. Relatively speaking, kidney health gets far less media attention, which means that people tend to be less well-informed regarding what causes kidney disease and the various ways that they can protect these vital organs.
Understanding what causes kidney disease provides clues to lifestyle choices that can improve kidney function. In fact, the healthier the kidneys are, the better overall health tends to be.
What Causes Kidney Disease?
To become more familiar with kidney disease, it is essential to understand the functions performed by these organs. Most people know that the kidneys manage fluid levels in the body, mainly by producing urine. The kidneys also act as filters, keeping blood cells circulating throughout the body while allowing waste to leave.
This is just the beginning of the various roles the kidneys serve. They also help to keep blood pressure on an even keel, manage the production of red blood cells, balance sodium and potassium levels in the body and create stronger bones by activating vitamin D. Additionally, the kidneys are responsible for putting sugar back into the bloodstream.
A healthy person with normally functioning kidneys probably has little cause to notice them. However, this changes when symptoms like unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, headaches and muscle cramps arise. People experiencing kidney problems may notice a change in the frequency and volume of urination. Numbness or swelling in the feet and hands are also common symptoms, while others may feel relentlessly thirsty and experience mental confusion.
Most of these symptoms arise only in the latter stages of kidney disease. Many people in the early stages have few or no symptoms at all. This is why it’s critical to recognize risk factors for kidney disease.
An individual who has a personal or family history of any of these conditions is at greater risk for developing kidney disease:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Previous occurrences of kidney disease
Additional risk factors include obesity, smoking, kidney stones and chronic urinary tract infections. People belonging to certain ethnic heritages, like African Americans and Hispanics, also tend to be more likely to develop kidney disease.
It’s important for people to be aware of these risk factors, because they are most often what causes kidney disease. Doctors say that people with conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease often experience impaired kidney function. This can become dangerous, especially if it goes untreated.
Even people who don’t have any of the risk factors for developing kidney problems may benefit from promoting kidney health. In fact, when it comes to improving kidney health, people have far more control than they may realize.
10 Tips to Keep Kidneys Healthy
1. Drink Water
Proper hydration is vital to kidney health. When the body doesn’t get enough water, the kidneys get dry, causing them to absorb toxins rather than expel them. Insufficient hydration further causes water retention because the kidneys cannot expel the liquids that they normally would. Doctors recommend drinking between six to eight glasses of water every day, but keep in mind that daily intake may need to be increased in conditions like hot weather or when performing strenuous physical activities.
2. Put Down the Salt
When it comes to foods to avoid with kidney disease, this seasoning is at the top of the list. Salt is added to processed foods, and many people won’t pick up a fork until shaking some salt onto every item on their plate. Keeping sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day is a great way to improve kidney health.
It isn’t necessary to run a marathon or become a crossfit champion to enhance kidney function. Simply taking an after-dinner walk is a sensible start to being more active. Look for ways to increase movement every day. As it becomes more natural to be mobile, consider trying more strenuous workouts. Riding a bike, swimming, dancing and yoga all are wonderful for kidney health.
4. Quit Smoking
It’s impossible to overstate how crucial giving up tobacco is to promoting healthier kidneys. Smoking impairs blood flow to all of the organs, and it may interfere with the efficacy of blood pressure medications. Kicking the habit may not be easy, but it is the healthiest choice for everyone.
5. Cut Back on Alcohol
It’s best to refrain from alcohol except on special occasions. People who want to drink more often are advised to restrict intake to one drink a day for women and one to two drinks a day for men.
6. See Your Doctor
Routine medical appointments give your doctor a chance to perform potentially life-saving screenings. Don’t neglect annual checkups, and be vigilant about additional appointments if your kidney disease risk factors are high.
7. Monitor Sugar Intake
People with diabetes are extremely likely to develop kidney disease. Those who have this condition or are at risk for it are recommended to limit consumption of sweets, sodas and alcohol.
8. Keep Tabs on Blood Pressure
Consistently high blood pressure causes the kidneys to work overtime. Monitor blood pressure regularly, and stick to any recommended medications prescribed by a doctor.
9. Choose a Healthy Diet
Select lean proteins and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for most meals. Consuming green, leafy vegetables keeps body weight in check while also providing critical nutrients that every system in the body requires for optimal functionality.
10. Limit NSAIDS
Regularly taking ibuprofen, naproxen and similar over-the-counter pain relief remedies puts a strain on the kidneys. Ask a doctor about healthier alternatives for everyday pain management.