March is National Kidney Month and World Kidney Day is March 10, making this the perfect time to raise awareness about the role your kidneys play. Kidneys are such vital organs — they help rid your body of waste, control your blood pressure, balance electrolytes, and produce red blood cells, among many other things. When your kidneys fail, they can’t perform these essential functions, and you must undergo regular dialysis treatments or have a kidney transplant. The good news is, making simple lifestyle changes can help you avoid kidney problems and keep your kidneys healthy.
1. Watch your blood pressure. Work with your doctor to keep your blood pressure under control — high blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the leading causes of chronic kidney disease.
2. Manage your blood sugar. Diabetes is another leading cause of CKD. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to many other problems as well, like heart disease, blood vessel disease, loss of limbs and blindness. If you have diabetes, make sure to control your blood sugar.
3. Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk for kidney problems, as well as heart disease. Work with your doctor to find ways to help you quit smoking.
4. Exercise regularly. Exercise has so many benefits — it improves your mood, helps you maintain a healthy weight and helps controls your blood pressure. Start slow and build up to 30 minutes a day.
5. Follow a low sodium diet. Foods high in salt make your kidneys work extra hard. Try to avoid this by keeping your sodium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams per day. Cook at home whenever possible, as restaurant meals and ready meals from grocery stores are usually very high in salt.
6. Avoid over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. If you have CKD, avoid anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, Advil and Motrin. Even if your kidneys are currently healthy, make sure to only use these medications minimally. Speak to your doctor if you plan to use these medications on a regular basis, as your kidney function should be checked first.
7. Ask your doctor for simple tests to check your kidney function. Simple blood and urine tests can be done to check your kidneys. Ask your doctor to check your kidney function at your next appointment.
Knowledge is power — take our risk quiz now to see if you’re at risk for chronic kidney disease.
If kidney disease runs in your family, or you have high blood pressure or diabetes, learn more about getting tested for kidney disease.