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How do I keep my kidneys healthy?

Maintaining kidney health is important for overall health and general wellbeing. By keeping your kidneys healthy, your body will filter and expel waste properly and produce hormones to help your body function optimally.

From managing your body’s fluid and acid-base balance to making important hormones, including one required for red blood cell production, your kidneys work hard to maintain optimal health. 

But your kidneys can’t look after you if you don’t look after them. Dr Ehrard Bezuidenhout, a nephrologist at Life Rosepark Hospital in Bloemfontein, says kidneys require a healthy environment. 

‘Diabetes mellitus and hypertension are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the world,’ he explains. 

Find a kidney specialist or a Life Renal Dialysis unit near you.

Dr Bezuidenhout shares eight tips for cultivating a healthy environment in which your kidneys can thrive. 

1. Keep active

‘A person needs to exercise to the extent that they burn kilojoules. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week to increase the heart rate optimally. This ensures that you’re exercising and not just moving.’ 

2. Control your blood sugar

‘Since kidneys filter waste from blood, it’s important to know how to control your blood sugar level. Over time, high blood sugar associated with diabetes can cause damage inside the kidneys. Your doctor will advise on optimum levels and the food that influences those levels.’

3.  Keep your blood pressure in check

‘High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the whole body, including the tiny ones in your kidneys, making it impossible for them to filter waste products optimally. Therefore, hypertension is one of the leading causes of kidney damage. Be sure to know your numbers.’

4. Monitor your weight

‘High-protein and -fat diets could be dangerous for your kidneys. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet – which is high in fruits and vegetables, limits salt and fat intake and champions protein such as white meat (fish and poultry) – can help to slow the progression of the disease.’

5. Stay hydrated

‘It sounds simple, but listen to your body. If you’re thirsty, drink water (rather than coffee, tea or soft drinks). You need to take in enough water to be able to excrete toxins. But maintaining the right level is important: too much water can dilute your electrolyte concentration.’

 6. Make lifestyle changes

Quitting smoking is very important. [Smoking] can lead to atherosclerosis (where arteries become clogged) and cancers, including renal cell carcinoma. Abuse of alcohol is problematic for the kidneys in many ways. Firstly, alcohol consists of carbohydrates, which in excess can lead to weight gain. More frequent urination when drinking can also lead to dehydration.’

7. Beware of over-the-counter medication

‘Anti-inflammatory medications are widely available over the counter to treat pain and inflammation. They can limit renal blood flow and long-term use of these drugs can lead to primary renal diseases. If someone does have CKD, they should avoid this class of drug.’ 

8. Get a kidney function test

A kidney function test is a blood and/or urine test that measures the levels of potassium, sodium, creatinine and urea as well as blood and protein in urine. These tests determine the efficacy of your kidneys. Should there be abnormalities, urine will be collected at intervals for a 24-hour period to help your doctor determine the severity and requirement for further investigations.’

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.