Fawad Qureshi, M.D.
Just like the rest of your organs, kidneys don’t last forever. In fact, according to the National Kidney Foundation, you lose about 1 percent of kidney function per year after age 40. There are lifestyle-induced factors that can expedite the loss of kidney function and lead to chronic kidney disease, which is the gradual loss of kidney function over the course of months or years.
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste and excess fluids from your body. So when kidney functionality decreases, harmful amounts of fluid and waste can build up in your body. In most cases, you can prevent or manage kidney issues by making healthy, kidney-conscious decisions.
Because kidney failure usually progresses slowly, symptoms may not surface until the condition is in its advanced stages. This underscores the need to monitor your health properly. It will ensure your ability to make lifestyle changes to prevent or manage the condition early on.
Common symptoms of kidney disease include:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble concentrating
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Problems sleeping
According to the National Kidney Foundation, diabetes and high blood pressure cause about two-thirds of chronic kidney disease cases.
Other risk factors include:
- Age; risk increases around age 65
- Race; African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are more susceptible to kidney failure
- High cholesterol
There are many lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk of suffering from chronic kidney disease.
- Monitor blood pressure. High blood pressure is a silent killer. It is not only a leading cause of chronic kidney disease, it also causes heart disease and other organ damage. Self-service machines that allow you to check your blood pressure in stores and pharmacies are quite accurate and easy to use. You should take your blood pressure at a resting heart rate; aim for less than 130 over 80. Speak with your primary care provider if your blood pressure measures above that range.
- Moderate alcohol intake. Women should consume no more than one alcoholic beverage per day and men no more than two, per the 2010 American Dietary Guidelines. A standard drink is defined as:
-Beer: 12-ounce bottle
-Wine: 5-ounce serving
-Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5-ounce serving
- Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, discuss ways you can quit smoking with your health care provider. Take advantage of free smoking cessation options, such as QuitPlan.com or 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
- Exercise caution with over-the-counter medications. Excessive use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen – can lead to kidney damage. Be sure to follow directions on these medications, and use them only when necessary.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can lead to a number of poor health conditions, including diabetes, which is another major cause of kidney failure. Maintain a healthy weight or shed excess pounds by remaining physically active and by eating a diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
From maintaining a healthy weight to monitoring your blood pressure and avoiding unnecessary medications, making kidney-conscious choices will pay dividends for your long-term health. It’s important to take preventive steps in order to keep your kidneys and body functioning at their optimal level. The best part is that you can start today!