March is National Kidney Month, a time when communities across the country raise awareness about kidney disease. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a serious condition affecting 37 million people in the United States. Often overlooked until symptoms appear, CKD is progressive and can put you at risk for serious health complications including kidney failure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, high blood pressure and diabetes are the major causes of CKD in the United States. The kidneys consist of a specialized network of blood vessels that filter toxins and remove excess fluid from our bodies. High blood pressure puts excess stress on the blood vessels of the kidneys, which over time causes irreversible damage; uncontrolled diabetes also damages the blood vessels and nerves of the kidneys.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help you to manage and slow the progression of CKD and its complications. Follow these healthy lifestyle tips to take charge of your kidney health.
- Meet regularly with your health care team. Staying connected with your doctor, whether in-person or using telehealth via phone or computer, can help you to maintain your kidney health.
- Manage blood pressure and monitor blood glucose levels. Work with your health care team to develop a plan to monitor and meet your blood pressure goals; check your blood glucose level regularly if you have diabetes. Visit the NIH site on diabetes for more information.
- Take medicine as prescribed and avoid NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen. ;According to the NIH, some medicines can harm your kidneys. Your pharmacist and doctor will need to know about all the medicines you take.
- Aim for a healthy weight. Being overweight makes your kidneys work harder and may damage your kidneys. The NIH Body Weight Planner is an online tool to help you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Also, create a healthy meal plan and consider working with your doctor to develop a weight-loss plan that works for you.
- Reduce stress and make physical activity part of your routine. Consider healthy stress-reducing activities and get at least 30 minutes or more of physical activity each day.
- Make time for sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking compromises blood flow to the kidneys and can worsen kidney damage. Cigarette smoking also contributes to high blood pressure. For tips on quitting, visit Smokefree.gov.
It may seem difficult, but small changes can go a long way to keeping you and your kidneys healthier for longer. To learn more about preventing and managing CKD, visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website.