Upon first hearing of the unpleasantness of renal health issues, a lot of people ask how to prevent kidney disease.
Prevention in this case amounts to reduction of the risk of getting the disease, be it CKD (chronic kidney disease, or the gradual degradation of your kidneys) or kidney stones (hardened formations of mineral origin within the kidneys).
In other words, prevention of renal health problems lies in reducing risk factors for renal diseases.
Of course, we should say from the beginning that not all factors increasing your chances of getting the disease can be dealt with easily.
Being diabetic is a risk factor, for example, but you can hardly stop being diabetic.
Having family members who also have kidney disease puts you at a greater risk of getting it yourself too, but you can hardly disavow your biological relations as easily as some do their social ones.
Incurable conditions and genetics are not things we can control.
That said, there are a lot of other risk factors that can be controlled. Below we will discuss some of the most important as well as how to combat them in order to prevent kidney issues.
Factor 1: Drug Usage
People who use a lot of drugs put their kidneys under more strain. These are our filtration organs, after all, and the more chemicals you put in your bloodstream, the more work they have to do.
Do not think “drugs” refers only to illicit substances either.
Some of the biggest culprits here are actually over-the-counter medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pills. Aspirin is one of them. In fact, a lot of painkillers belong to this category.
The solution, of course, is to cut back as much as you can. If you can stand it, avoid using painkillers as much as possible. This may not be so easy for most.
However, there are actually alternative pain management therapies nowadays, including acupressure and acupuncture. Consider giving some of them a try in case they work for you.
Factor 2: Smoking
Tobacco usage has been historically recorded as a risk factor for kidney disease development.
The solution to this one is obvious: give it up. Your other organs and overall health will benefit too.
Factor 3: Liquor Consumption
Heavy drinkers are more likely to develop kidney disease than light or non-drinkers. Like smoking, though, alcohol consumption can cause a whole host of other health issues, including high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels. Both of those contribute to even higher risk factors for kidney disease!
If you cannot give up alcohol altogether, you can at least limit yourself to just 2 – 3 drinks a day (women, being of smaller frames and body mass, are generally advised to stick to the 2-drinks-a-day limit).
Factor 4: An Unhealthy Diet
This is actually one of the biggest culprits when it comes to kidney disease development.
A study published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease in 2013 demonstrated that unhealthy eating habits tended to mean higher risk for kidney damage. (Of note is that the same study discovered that smokers were a whopping 60% more likely to develop kidney disease compared to non-smokers.)
What you eat, you become.
Other research and doctors’ observations have agreed with this for years. Your diet, it is clear, can make a big difference in whether you get kidney disease or not—regardless of other risk factors.
So what sort of diet should you be getting in order to reduce the risk of kidney disease development? You want one that focuses on keeping blood cholesterol as well as blood pressure low. As we mentioned before, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure are risk factors for kidney disease.
Spice your diet but salt.
You also want a diet that is low in sodium content. We love salt—most of the comfort foods we eat these days are peppered liberally with it—but too much salt is actually bad for health in more ways than one.
Not only does it lead to higher blood pressure, but it can actually lead to unsightly bloating through fluid retention. Using less salt cannot only make you feel good, but can also improve your looks.
To keep sodium consumption down, avoid processed, pickled, canned, and fast food. Try to avoid adding it to your meals too. You can use spices instead to flavor what you are cooking.
Less or 'unfat' your life.
You should also try to limit the amount of saturated fat you eat. Saturated fat tends to lead to higher cholesterol levels. Go for unsaturated fats instead.
Olive oil is the classic example of an unsaturated fat. It is healthy, delicious, and can lead you down a gastronomic path you might find yourself enjoying more than you might expect of something “healthy”: the base for much of Italian cuisine, after all, is olive oil.
Mind your red meat.
Most kidney-bolstering diets also regulate red meat intake. This is because animal proteins tend to make the kidneys work harder.
In fact, red meat reduction is typical for people already diagnosed with kidney disease.
Taking Nothing for Granted: Getting Tested
Even with all of the above, though, there may be cases where too many risk factors still remain after making lifestyle changes.
This might be the case where you happen to have a medley of the uncontrollable risk factors, e.g. you are diabetic and also have close relatives with kidney disease.
When is it a redflag?
If you have 2 or more risk factors, you should definitely take nothing for granted. It would be wise to get tested on a regular basis—say once a year, for example—to check whether or not your kidneys are working properly.
Knowing earlier if something is indeed off about those organs will help you manage the condition more easily later. Indeed, if you detect it early enough, you might even manage to take steps to keep it from getting to a truly intrusive stage.
Take a chance.
A lot of things can be done, including treatments and kidney-boosting diets for renal health. Some of these are even effective enough to cause remarkable improvements in kidney disease sufferers’ conditions.
Take a look at The Kidney Disease Solution, a kidney disease diet program, and its results, for example.
Getting kidney disease does not equate to a death sentence, and if you manage it right, the condition can be lived with comfortably enough.