How to Protect Your Kidneys

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, have been on dialysis for some time or are waiting for a transplant, there are a number of ways to prolong the life of your kidneys and improve your overall health.

Maintain a healthy diet

When you have kidney disease, eating well is incredibly important. A healthy diet will not only make you feel better but it can also help slow your kidney disease down. It may seem like a big lifestyle change at first but here are some ways to improve your diet: 

1. Keep your salt intake to a minimum.

Foods high in salt can really put a strain on your kidneys. Try to keep your sodium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams per day. Remember that restaurant meals and ready meals from grocery stores are loaded with salt. One restaurant meal can easily account for a whole day’s worth of salt. Make meals at home, with healthy ingredients, to make sure your diet remains low in salt.

2. Avoid high protein diets.

A good rule of thumb is to have one serving of protein (about the size of a deck of cards) per meal. Any more and your kidneys will be working overtime.

3. Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

People with kidney disease are at increased risk of heart disease so keep an eye on your cholesterol. Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as fish, lean meats, egg substitutes and spreads instead of butter and margarine.

4. Stop smoking.

Smoking substantially increases your risk for all kidney-related problems, including heart disease. Work with your doctor to find ways to help you quit smoking.

>     Find healthy, kidney-friendly recipes here


Get fit

1. Maintain a healthy weight.

Excess weight puts increased stress on your kidneys, raises your blood pressure and increases your risk of diabetes – the leading cause of kidney disease.

2. Get moving.

Exercise improves your mood, helps you maintain a healthy weight and controls your blood pressure. The more you can move, the better you’ll feel!

>     Get fitness tips and exercises you can work into each day


Listen to your doctor

1. Know your GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate).

Your GFR roughly measures the percent of remaining kidney function. By knowing your kidney function, you can better protect your health and prepare for possible treatment in the future.

2. Have your kidneys checked on a regular basis.

Kidney disease is often silent, showing no symptoms until you approach the need for dialysis or transplantation. Having your kidneys checked on a regular basis can help identify problems earlier and prevent loss of kidney function.

3. If you have diabetes, control your blood sugars.

For more than 40 percent of people with kidney failure, diabetes is the cause. Uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to heart disease, blood vessel disease, loss of limbs and blindness. Controlling your blood sugar can help save more than just your kidney function – it can help save your life.

4. Avoid over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.

If you have chronic kidney disease, avoid anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, Advil and Motrin. If you do not have chronic kidney disease, use these medications only as needed. Make sure to speak to your doctor first if you are using these medications on a regular basis, as your doctor may want to check your kidney function first.

5. Watch your blood pressure.

Controlling your blood pressure is the single most important thing you can do to help prolong the life of your kidneys. Be aware of your blood pressure and work with your doctor to control it.

Taking proper care of your kidneys can help preserve valuable kidney function. Step one is finding a nephrologist – a kidney doctor – to track your kidney function and advise you on steps you can take now to live well with kidney disease.

>     Find a kidney specialist


Get more tips from our CKD department

If you have chronic kidney disease and would like more information on living well with CKD, contact our CKD education program at 425-259-1907 or