kidney health tips

Watch that salt! Five tips for keeping your sodium to a minimum

There is one primary change we can all make to help keep our kidneys healthy and that is to cut the salt! A diet high in salt makes it harder for kidneys to remove toxins and excess fluid and when those build up in your body, your blood pressure increases. High blood pressure is a leading cause of chronic kidney disease. To help manage your blood pressure, your daily goal should be to consume less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium — your doctor may recommend even less. The good news is, there are many ways to keep salt to a minimum in your diet – and you don’t have to sacrifice taste one bit.

Five tips for keeping salt out of your diet

  1. Cook at home from scratch. Restaurant meals are often laden with salt. One of the best ways to lower your salt intake is to cook at home using fresh, unprocessed ingredients.
  2. Drain canned goods. Canned goods can make cooking easier but to preserve those foods, salt is added. Drain and rinse beans and other canned foods to remove added salt.
  3. Throw out packaged seasonings. It’s easy to add seasoning packs to foods without even thinking. But more often than not, these spice packs are loaded with salt. Instead, mix up your own spices to season meat or vegetables. We’ll even help get you started – try our American Favorite Spice Blend on meat, fish or in soups.
  4. Read the label. Before you purchase any foods from the grocery store, take a look at the nutrition label. Compare nutrition labels of similar products to find the one lowest in sodium.
  5. Keep a journal. It’s hard to keep track of the sodium you’re eating. One way to help monitor the salt in your diet is to write it down. After every meal, jot down the sodium you just consumed. This will help you see how much sodium you eat each day, and identify meals that are high and low in sodium — making it easier to meal plan the next time you go to the store.

Whether you have chronic kidney disease or not, paying attention to what you eat can have an enormous impact on your health. Talk to your dietitian or doctor to make sure you are following a diet that’s right for you. Stick with it and let us know how it goes! Share your experiences with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

5 simple exercises you can do anywhere

It’s a fact – exercising regularly provides so many benefits, especially for your physical and mental health. Most people, no matter your age, weight or existing health issues, feel better after exercise. People living with chronic kidney disease are no exception. But if you’ve never had a regular exercise regime, it’s important to ease into exercise very slowly. Starting out too strong can result in injuries and turn you off exercise, so talk to your doctor about creating an exercise plan that’s right for you.

Benefits of exercise

People that exercise often:

    • Have more enthusiasm and optimism.
    • Find it easier to handle stress and anxiety.
    • Feel stronger and less tired.
    • Sleep better.
    • Experience reduced muscle cramps and joint pain.
    • Have a better appetite and digestion.
    • Have an enhanced mental attitude.

Five exercise activities you can do at home

The good news: you don’t have to sign up for an expensive gym membership to exercise. There are many simple exercise activities that you can do from the comfort of your own home or neighborhood! Here are some of our favorites.

  1. Yoga. Yoga is a fantastic way to stretch muscles you might not even know need stretching. It’s also great for getting rid of stress, focusing on your breathing and being in the moment. There are great beginner yoga videos out there – search online to find one that suits you. There are also many yoga instructors that offer online classes for free or a small fee. Even just 10 minutes of yoga can make you feel more centered and relaxed. If your mobility is limited, search for ‘chair yoga’ – many yoga poses can be modified for limited mobility while sitting in a chair.
  2. Lift weights. Strength training not only builds muscle but it also provides a better range of motion and, if done correctly on a regular basis, can reduce the likelihood of injury. It’s also a great activity because it can be done anywhere. Start light – even a can of food in each hand will do.
  3. Garden. Here’s a win-win – gardening! Not only will you have some beautiful flower beds or vegetables at the end, you’ll get a workout in as well. Pulling weeds and planting seeds is a great way to use arm and back muscles. Just make sure not to overdo it – it’s easy to overextend yourself. Build up to longer stints in the garden over time. And make sure to invest in some kneeling pads – a great added comfort when weeding on your knees.
  4. Walking. Taking a walk allows you to not only get in some exercise but also breathe in some fresh air and be out in nature. If there are trails nearby, then head to the woods; if not, even a short few laps around your neighborhood offers you the chance to stretch your legs and get in a bit of cardio. Play a podcast or some tunes if you’re heading out solo, or get to know your neighbors by asking them to join you.
  5. Zumba®. For those who love to crank up the tunes while they workout, look no further than a Zumba® class! There are plenty of classes for free using Zoom so there’s no need to even leave your home. Zumba® is a great way to learn different styles of dance and get a workout in at the same time. It’s fun, lively and a great way to work up a sweat.

Remember, talk to your doctor to make sure you’re choosing activities that are right for you. Stick with it and you’ll likely start to feel the benefits of exercise after just a few sessions. Let us know how it goes! Share your experiences with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Raise awareness of kidney health on March 12, World Kidney Day

Kidney health for everyone, everywhere is the theme of this year’s World Kidney Day, celebrated March 12 and a chance for all of us to remind ourselves of just how important these bean-shaped organs are.

 

What your kidneys do

Kidneys filter blood and remove waste. They also balance electrolytes, control blood pressure, produce red blood cells and help you maintain healthy bones, among other things.

One fifth of the blood pumped by your heart goes to the kidneys, where it is processed and filtered. Excess water, salt, minerals and waste are sent to the bladder as urine and ‘clean’ blood is returned to circulation. It takes just five minutes for all of your blood to be filtered by the kidney which means in 24 hours, your kidneys will filter all of your blood 288 times!

Most people are born with two kidneys, although you need just one functioning kidney to live a normal, healthy life.

How to keep your kidneys healthy

The good news is, you can do a lot to help your kidneys stay healthy.

1. Eat less salt. Foods high in salt make your kidneys work harder. Try to keep your sodium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams per day. Eat out less (restaurant meals are loaded with salt) and instead, cook from scratch at home.

2. Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure causes kidney disease. Manage your blood pressure and get it checked regularly.

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.

4. Stop smoking. Smoking greatly increases your risk for all kidney-related problems, including heart disease.

5. Exercise regularly. Work with your doctor to create an exercise plan that works for you. Exercising on a regular basis and maintaining a healthy weight can help keep your kidneys healthy.

Get your kidneys checked

Simple urine and blood tests can check your kidney function. Ask your doctor at your next check-up. Catching kidney disease early is key, as you might be able to slow it down with simple lifestyle changes.

If you’re at risk for kidney disease, or it runs in your family, don’t wait – make an appointment to get tested today.

Help us spread the word about kidney disease – join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Step into Fall: exercise tips for dialysis patients

Exercise is important for everyone but especially for people on dialysis. For most, dialysis requires sitting in one place for four to five hours at a time. It can also make you feel drained and tired. Once you’ve rested and recovered from your treatment, focus on exercise. Get moving so your endorphins can kick in and give you energy. Exercise can also help you sleep better and lower your blood pressure and blood sugar.

Here are our ideas for exercises you can do in the fall. As always, run your exercise plan by your doctor to make sure its OK for you.

1. If the weather’s nice, go for a hike or a walk around your neighborhood. If you’re on dialysis at a center, chances are your days are pretty packed. If you’re feeling energetic, head to a local trail for a walk in the woods. Or, there’s no need to hop back in the car – just head outside and walk your neighborhood.

2. Stretch, stretch, stretch. There’s a reason people love yoga so much. It’s a great way to stretch so many muscles in your body. Stretching can also make you feel more relaxed and less stressed, and you can do it from just about anywhere. Check with your doctor if you’re unsure of the stretches to do.

3. Lift light weights. Building, strengthening and toning muscle can increase blood flow and make you stronger. You can even do it in front of the TV! Start slow and take your time. Don’t have weights? Grab some canned food to use!

4. Weed your garden. Head outdoors and spend some time preparing your garden for next year’s crop. You’ll thank yourself come spring, and you’ll be getting some exercise now! Weed, rake and breathe in that crisp fall air.

5. Dance. Dancing is one of the best ways to get a workout in – and it’s fun! Crank up the tunes and dance around your house. Just keep moving and you’ll be getting a workout done in no time.

Remember, exercising should be a bit of a challenge but if you’re out of breath, feeling any pain, or have swelling or blurred vision, stop right away and call your doctor.

What exercises do you like best this time of year? Let us know! Share your ideas with us on social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!

Top ten tips for people starting dialysis

Dialysis can be daunting – learning more about it and understanding your options might help you feel calmer and better prepared. Here are ten ways to get ready for dialysis.

1. Find a kidney doctor if you don’t already have one. A nephrologist — a kidney doctor — is an expert on kidney care. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, use our search tool to find a nephrologist near you.

2. Learn about your treatment options. If you need dialysis, there are different options that might work for you. Learn about home dialysis and in-center dialysis, then talk to your kidney doctor about what could work best for you.

3. Meet with a nutritionist at your dialysis center to discuss the kidney diet. If you need dialysis, you’ll likely benefit from changing your diet. Eating the right foods while on dialysis will help you feel better.

4. Take a class about kidney health. There are many resources out there to help you learn how to feel good while on dialysis. Sign up for our free classes to understand your treatment options, how diet and exercise can make you feel better, and other ways to help slow the progression of your kidney disease.

5. Try to create a dialysis schedule around work and regularly scheduled activities. Dialysis is time-consuming but it doesn’t have to mean you’ll miss out on all your usual activities. Work with your dialysis care team to find a treatment schedule that helps you stay involved with work and your community.

6. Talk to the care team at your dialysis clinic about insurance. Speak with members of your dialysis clinic’s financial team to learn about Medicare and what kidney care it covers. 

7. Talk to someone who has been on dialysis. One of the best ways to understand what dialysis is like is to chat with people who are also on it. While undergoing treatment, talk to others who are dialyzing to get tips from them. Or, meet up with someone from The Road Back to Life, a group of people with kidney disease who have been on dialysis or received a kidney transplant.

8. Find recipes that follow your kidney diet and stock up on those foods. There are some absolutely delicious foods that align with the kidney diet. Check out our kidney-friendly recipes for some to try.

9. Make an exercise plan with your doctor. Fitness is important for everyone, including people on dialysis. Regular exercise — even short walks or stretching — will help you feel better and could help slow your kidney disease down. Work with your doctor to create a fitness plan that works for you.

10. Be your own advocate. No one knows you better than you. If something isn’t going well for you, speak up. Talk to your nephrologist or the kidney care team at your dialysis center to see how your care plan could change to make you feel better.

 

Although adjusting to being on dialysis can be difficult, there’s a community of people here to help. You’re not alone with your disease — talking with others and sharing your own experiences can help. Search, and share your own story, with #MyKidneyStory on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Keep cool when it’s hot: tips for dialysis patients

When you’re on dialysis, it can be difficult to manage your fluid intake and when it’s hot out, that becomes an even bigger challenge. It’s good to have a list of ways to keep cool on those hot summer days so you’re not tempted to go over your fluid limit. Below are some of our favorite ways to keep cool without gulping down more drinks.

1. Freeze fruit⁠ — like strawberries, raspberries or blackberries ⁠— to suck on when you’re thirsty.

2. Measure out your daily water limit and pour it into an ice cube tray. (Ice cubes last longer than sips of water.)

3. Stay in air-conditioned places like malls or grocery stores.

4. Take a cool bath or shower and let your hair air dry instead of using a hairdryer.

5. Cool a washcloth and drape it over your forehead, then sit in front of a fan.

6. Wear lightweight clothing.

7. If you have diabetes, pay close attention to your blood sugar as high blood glucose can make you extra thirsty.

8. Avoid spicy foods.

9. Stay away from strenuous activity so as not to dehydrate your body further.

10. Suck on a lemon or lime to quench your thirst.

How do you stay cool during the hot summer days? We’d love to hear your creative ideas! Share your tips with us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Love your kidneys!

Make simple changes for kidney health

February is all about love and this year, it’s time to spread that love to your kidneys. The truth is, they need it! Kidney disease is serious and one in three adult Americans is at risk for it. When your kidneys fail, you need regular dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant to survive. The good news is, there are many things you can do right now to prevent kidney disease from happening. Follow the tips below to spread the love to your kidneys and help keep them healthy.

1. Follow a low-sodium diet. Eating foods high in sodium can increase your blood pressure and make your kidneys (and your heart) work harder. Keep your sodium intake under 2,000 milligrams a day. Avoid fast foods and packaged foods, and limit eating out as restaurant meals can be full of sodium. Cook at home, choose fresh fruits and vegetables to snack on and flavor foods with spices instead of salt. Check out our tasty low-sodium recipes and work with your dietitian or doctor on a complete meal plan.

2. Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure can impact arteries around your heart, making them weak and unable to deliver enough blood to your kidneys. Keep your blood pressure in check to help keep your arteries strong.

3. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help you control blood pressure, lose weight, get stronger and sleep better. It can also greatly improve your mood. Start slowly and work up to 30 minutes a day. Check out more fitness tips and work with your doctor to create an exercise plan that’s right for you.

4. Quit smoking. Smoking can slow the blood flow to your kidneys. If you smoke, work with your doctor on a plan to cut back and work towards quitting altogether. Visit smokefree.gov for tips and more information.

5. Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes. High blood sugar can damage blood vessels in your kidneys. Keep your blood sugar at the level your doctor recommends to prevent kidney damage.

Now’s the time to focus on yourself and your health. Don’t put it off! Follow the tips above for a healthier you and let us know how it’s going – share with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!