7 golden rules to keep your kidneys healthy

Nearly 850 million people in the world have some sort of kidney disease and about five to 10 million people currently either require dialysis or kidney transplantation. Estimates suggest that if the global burden of kidney diseases keeps increasing, it would be one of the leading causes of mortality in the world by 2040.

Every year on the third Thursday of March, the International Society of Nephrology and International Federation of Kidney Foundations, organise World Kidney Day to spread awareness about the various aspects of kidney health. This year, the theme of World Kidney Day focuses on prevention of kidney diseases. With that in view, we bring you seven of the most common lifestyle changes that help keep your kidney healthy:

Keep fit, be active

Regular workouts keep your body functioning well and help prevent various diseases, including heart diseases and obesity (the risk factors of kidney disease). It also helps in maintaining normal blood pressure levels. According to the National Health Service, healthy adults should aim at about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity workout in a week. If you don’t exercise at all, start with 20 minutes of light exercise and eventually increase it to the required time and intensity. Some of the exercises that you can do are brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming.

Eat a healthy diet

This can help to maintain an ideal body weight, reduce your blood pressure, prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with chronic kidney disease. Reduce your salt intake. The recommended sodium intake is five to six grams of salt per day. This includes the salt already in your foods (around a teaspoon). To reduce your salt intake, try and limit the amount of processed and restaurant food and do not add salt to food. It will be easier to control your salt intake if you prepare the food yourself with fresh ingredients. Also, make sure that you have plenty of veggies, fresh fruits, and whole grains that provide you with all the macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins).

Watch your blood pressure and blood sugar levels

High blood pressure and diabetes are two of the most common underlying conditions for kidney diseases. If you have either of the diseases or if you are at risk of developing them, say from family history, it is important to keep watch on your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Get tested regularly at a clinic and do timely home monitoring (as recommended by your doctor). Also, make sure you take all your medicines properly. Your blood pressure should be below 140/90 mm Hg and your fasting blood sugar levels should be below 99 mg/dL.

Take appropriate fluid intake

Water helps kidneys in filtering out all the waste from the body. It also ensures that your kidneys get proper blood supply. So, if you tend to be dehydrated often, you might get kidney damage. Now, most people are told to drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water per day. However, according to the National Kidney Foundation, the number may vary as per your age, physical activity, the climate around you and your health condition. For example, patients who are on dialysis are often told to reduce their water intake since their kidneys are not filtering excess water. Excess water may lead to a reduction in sodium levels in the body, which may also negatively affect your health. Men are generally recommended to take about three litres of fluid through the day and women should take about 2.2 litres of fluid per day.

Don’t smoke

Smoking slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it can decrease their ability to function normally. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50 per cent.

Don’t take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory/pain-killer pills regularly

If you tend to take a lot of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for pain reduction or fever and cold, you may be slowly degrading your kidney function. Most of the OTC pain killers are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can harm your kidneys over time. Ibuprofen, aspirin (in high dose) and naproxen are especially known to increase the risk of chronic kidney disease. If you have low blood pressure or are dehydrated, some of these pain killers can also lead to acute kidney injury.

Get your kidney function checked if you have one or more of the ‘high risk’ factors

• You have diabetes.

• You have hypertension.

• You are obese.

• You have a family history of kidney disease.