8 healthy habits to keep your kidneys healthy

By Dr Atul Ingale, Consultant Nephrologist & Transplant Physician, Director, Department of Nephrology, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi 

Your Kidneys are a fist-sized bean-shaped paired organ located at the bottom of your rib cage, on both sides of your spine. They perform several vital functions. Most importantly, they filter waste products, excess water, and other impurities from your blood. These waste products are stored in your Bladder and later expelled through urine.

In addition, your Kidneys regulate your body’s pH, salt, and Potassium levels. They also produce hormones ‘Renin’, which regulate blood pressure and ‘Erythropoietin’ to produce red blood cells. Your Kidneys are also responsible for activating a form of vitamin D that helps your body absorb Calcium for building bones and regulating muscle function. Finally, your body is a chemical factory that requires a particular pH for the chemical reaction, which is maintained by the Kidneys. For a paid or organs that play such a pivotal role, it is important to safeguard their health, here’s how:

KEEP YOURSELF ACTIVE AND FIT – Regular exercise is good for more than your waistline, it helps in lowering the risk of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) . It can also reduce your blood pressure and boost your heart health, which is essential to preventing Kidney damage. You don’t have to run marathons to reap the rewards of exercise. Walking, running, cycling, and even dancing is excellent for your health. Find an activity that keeps you busy and helps you have fun. It’ll be easier to stick to it and reap great results.

CONTROL YOUR BLOOD SUGAR – People with Diabetes, or a condition that causes high blood sugar, may develop Kidney damage. When your body’s cells can’t use the Glucose (sugar) in your blood, your Kidneys are forced to work extra hard to filter your blood. Over years of exertion, this can lead to life-threatening damage.

MONITOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE – High blood pressure can cause Kidney damage. If high blood pressure occurs with other health issues like Diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol, the impact on your body can be significant. A healthy blood pressure reading is 120/80, and pre-Hypertension is between that point and 139/89. Lifestyle and dietary changes may help lower your blood pressure at this point. Consulting your doctor will remain crucial here.

MONITOR YOUR WEIGHT & CONSUME A HEALTHY DIET – People who are overweight or obese are at risk for several health conditions that can damage the Kidneys. These include Diabetes, Heart disease, and Hidney disease. A healthy diet low in Sodium, low in processed meats, and other Kidney-improving foods may help reduce the risk of Kidney damage. Focus on eating fresh ingredients that are naturally low in Sodium, such as Cauliflower, Blueberries, fish, and whole grains.

DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS – There’s no magic behind the cliché advice to drink eight glasses of water a day; but it’s a good goal because it encourages you to stay hydrated. Regular, consistent water intake is healthy for your Kidneys. It is recommended that you aim for at least 1.5 to 2 liters in a day. Exactly how much water you need depends mainly on your health and lifestyle. Additional factors like climate, exercise, gender, overall health, and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding are essential when planning your daily water intake. Also, people who have previously had Kidney stones should drink a bit more water to help prevent stone deposits in the future.

DON’T SMOKE – Smoking damages your body’s blood vessels, leading to slower blood flow throughout your body and your Kidneys. Smoking also puts your Kidneys at an increased risk for Cancer. If you stop smoking, the risk of damage to your Kidney will decrease. However, it’ll take many years to return to a person’s risk level who’s never smoked.

BE AWARE OF THE AMOUNT OF OTC PILLS YOU TAKE – If you regularly take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication, you may be causing Kidney damage. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), including Ibuprofen and Naproxen, can damage your Kidneys if you take them regularly for chronic pain, headaches, or Arthritis.

It is important to have your Kidney function tested if you’re at high risk of Kidney damage or Kidney disease; usually Kidney Function Tests are recommended. The following people may benefit from routine screening:

  • If you are over 60yrs old
  • If you were born at a low birth weight
  • If you have Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) or have a close family member with it
  • If you or a close family member have a history of high blood pressure
  • If you are obese

A regular Kidney Function Test (KFT) is a great way to know your Kidney’s health, and check for possible changes. Getting ahead of any damage can help slow or prevent future damage.

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