On the third Thursday of March every year, the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations organize World Kidney Day. Today, over 850 million people across the globe are suffering from kidney/renal diseases. Moreover, nearly 5 to 10 million people are in dire need of kidney transplantation or dialysis.
Experts predict that kidney diseases could become one of the prime causes of mortality by 2040 if this trend continues. Every year the World Kidney Day serves as a reminder that we need to take ample care of our kidneys. With all that in mind, we bring you the six most effective steps that will help to protect kidney health.
1. Drink Lots of Fluids
Regular and adequate intake of healthy fluids plays a vital role in protecting kidney health. Water plays an essential role in the ultrafiltration process that takes place inside the kidneys. It also helps to ensure proper blood supply to the kidneys. Dehydration can lead to severe damage to the kidney tissues because of inadequate blood supply, and consequently, a lack of oxygen in that area. Therefore, people are usually advised to drink around 8 to 10 glasses of water per day.
However, the American National Kidney Foundation) clarifies that the number of glasses depends on various factors, including your age, health condition, physical activity, and the climate in your location.
For instance, patients who are on dialysis need to consume less water because their kidneys are not able to bear the load of filtering out excess water. Also, excess water can harm your health by causing a fall in your body’s sodium levels.
2. Keep an Eye on Your Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Levels
Two of the most important conditions leading to kidney diseases are hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes mellitus. If you are at risk of developing either of these conditions, you should closely monitor your blood pressure and blood glucose levels at all times.
Visit your doctor regularly and keep performing checks at home as well, as the doctor recommends. Do not forget to take your medicines on time. Ideally, your blood pressure should be below 140/90 mm Hg, and your fasting blood sugar levels should not be over 99 mg/dL. It is one of the most important measures you need to take for protecting kidney health.
3. Keep Exercising Regularly
Working out regularly helps you protect kidney health and a large number of ailments like coronary artery diseases, obesity, and diabetes. Many of these conditions are important risk factors for kidney diseases. Also, regular exercise helps to keep your blood pressure normal.
The UK National Health Service advises people to do around 150 minutes of moderate to intense workout every week. If you are leading a completely sedentary lifestyle at present, start doing at least 20 minutes of light workout every day.
After that, you can gradually make it more intense and lengthy. Exercises that can help you with protecting kidney health are swimming, cycling, jogging, and brisk walking.
However, people suffering from chronic kidney diseases should not prepare a workout schedule without consulting their doctor first.
4. Avoid Smoking and Drinking
It is common knowledge that smoking and drinking can cause serious damage to your lungs and liver, respectively. However, those are not the only organs affected by these vile habits. Both of them can have a devastating effect on your kidneys by reducing their filtering capacity.
Smoking causes a decrease in the blood supply to your kidneys, while consumption of alcohol results in hypertension. Thus, your risk of developing kidney diseases goes up significantly. Damage caused to various other organs indirectly contributes to kidney damage as well.
If you are really concerned about protecting kidney health, then you need to stop smoking and drinking as soon as possible. Unless you do that, all your efforts will go in vain.
5. Eat a Balanced and Healthy Diet
Along with physical exercise, a healthy and balanced diet plays a vital role to protect kidney health. It helps you stay safe from a wide variety of lifestyle conditions, including kidney diseases. You should avoid consuming food that is too sugary, salty, or fatty.
Stay away from junk food and processed food, especially if you are diabetic, hypertensive, or overweight/obese. Instead, try to eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Ideally, your diet should consist of all the macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that your body requires.
For people who are serious about protecting kidney health, a healthy diet is a vital concept to follow.
6. Do Not Overuse Medications
Many people tend to consume large amounts of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs for cold and fever. However, they are mostly unaware that these drugs can actually harm your kidneys.
This is because most OTC painkillers you will find at your local chemist’s store are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which can have a significantly negative impact on your kidney health in due time.
Drugs that have been known to increase the risk of chronic kidney dysfunction include naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin (in high doses). Some of these drugs can also result in acute kidney disease in patients who are suffering from low blood pressure or dehydration.
Consequently, you should try to consult your doctor regarding the length and dosage of these medications before using them. It is one of the most important but overlooked ways of protecting kidney health.
Just like medications, you also need to have the right health insurance plan that covers PED or Pre-Existing Diseases like kidney dysfunction.
Kidney diseases are considered to be silent killers. You will probably not even realize that you are suffering from one until the symptoms get so severe that you are forced to undergo a check-up. By that time, it may be too late. Hence, you should start paying attention to your kidneys and protect kidney health as soon as possible.
The risk of chronic kidney diseases is tackled with the help of many of the same steps required to prevent heart diseases and cancer, and staying healthy in general. We hope that this year’s World Kidney Day will help in spreading awareness about kidney diseases and their avoidance.