Keeping your kidneys healthy is very important, but also challenging at the same time. Kidneys are one of the main components of the human body that work in tandem with other organs to keep us healthy. A few of the kidneys’ primary functions include ensuring an ideal balance of water and minerals in your blood, and removing waste from your blood after digestion, muscle activity, and exposure to chemicals or medications. The pair is also responsible for regulating your blood pressure, and prompting your body to produce red blood cells through the production of the hormone erythropoietin. In addition, it helps to produce an active form of Vitamin D which is needed for bone health, amongst others.
Being involved in many essential functions, it is therefore necessary for us to prevent kidney disease from occurring. This is because kidney disease can cause adverse effects to your body, primarily due to a build-up of waste and fluid. Fluid and waste retention in the body can cause ankle swelling, breathing difficulty, delirium, seizure as well as irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmias).
What is Kidney Disease?
Kidney disease affects your body’s ability to clean your blood, filter extra water out of your blood which helps to control your blood pressure. Not only that, kidney disease can also affect red blood cell production and vitamin D metabolism, which are both needed for bone health. Kidney disease can be categorised into two types - acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease. The main causes behind acute kidney injury include a reduction in blood flow to the kidneys, direct damage caused to the kidneys, or an obstruction in the flow of urine, which leads to fluid retention in the kidneys, causing damage and swelling.
The causes of acute kidney injury, on the other hand, can be distinguished based on three individual categories, which are pre-renal, intra-renal and post-renal causes.
1. Acute Kidney Injury as a Result of Pre-Renal Causes
Pre-renal (before it reaches the kidney) causes are conditions which usually result in a reduction of blood flow to the kidney. These include excessive bleeding, perforated organs, frequent vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive sweating, and arterial dissection.
2. Acute Kidney Injury as a Result of Intra-Renal Causes
Intra-renal causes refer to damages inside the kidney, such as chronic intake of certain nephrotoxic drugs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the glomerulus), vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), and other systemic diseases such as multiple myeloma and Henoch–Schönlein purpura.
3. Acute Kidney Injury as a Result of Post-Renal Causes
Post-renal causes occurs when an obstruction in the urinary tract below the kidneys compromises its ability to function. These include benign prostatic enlargement, bladder cancer, pregnancy, stones in the ureter and uretic structures.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease refers to an ailment in which an individual’s kidneys fail to function properly for a period of 3 months or longer. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common culprits of chronic kidney disease. High blood sugar levels can damage your kidneys over time, while high blood pressure creates tears in progressively damage your blood vessels, including those that lead to your kidneys.
Other known causes include regular use of drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and being exposed to certain chemicals for prolonged periods. Birth defects can also cause blockages in the urinary tract which result in chronic kidney disease for babies.
Preventive Measures for Kidney Disease
Your risk of being affected by kidney disease can be greatly reduced should the right preventive measures be practiced consistently. This includes staying fit and active, being in control of your blood sugar level, regularly monitoring your blood pressure, maintaining a healthy nutrition and fluid intake, avoid smoking, and reducing regular ingestion of over-the-counter pills.
Staying fit and active
When it comes to keeping fit, regular physical activity helps in reducing your blood pressure, and thus, preventing chronic kidney disease. It is advisable to spend a cumulative of at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.
Keeping tabs on your blood sugar level
It is also important to be mindful of your blood sugar level, especially if you are suffering from diabetes. Excessive sugar intake can lead to kidney damage, which is why you should control your diet, take your medicine and regularly check your blood sugar level.
Ensuring your blood pressure stays in check
Similarly, regular monitoring of your blood pressure is also vital in ensuring that you do not go over the recommended level of 120/80. This is because high blood pressure, in the long run, can also lead to kidney damage.
Eat healthy, stay healthy
A healthy, balanced fluid and food intake can prevent chronic kidney disease. Some of the ways in which you can keep your food intake in check include baking or broiling foods instead of frying, and eating foods made from whole grains such as whole wheat and brown rice. It is also advised to consume healthier snack alternatives such as nuts or seeds, and being mindful of what you eat by keeping a journal of your daily food consumption.
Cut ties with the drugs and tobacco
Avoid regular ingestion of over-the counter drugs such as ibuprofen, because frequent consumption can lead to kidney damage. For this reason, you may want to seek a doctor’s opinion on alternative methods you can adopt to manage chronic pain without having to ingest any drugs. Additionally, avoid smoking at all costs as it slows down blood flow to your kidneys, which in turn impairs your kidneys’ ability to function properly.
Lifestyle Choices You Can Make to Prevent Kidney Disease
Lifestyle choices, which are a dynamic component of preventive measures, play a key role in your susceptibility to kidney disease. These choices largely revolve around what you put into your body and how you take care of it. Therefore, it is imperative that you make the right choices in your daily routine to prevent kidney disease.
Cut back on red meat
Based on a study conducted in Singapore recently, participants who consumed the most amount of red meat were found to have a higher risk of developing kidney failure as compared to participants consuming the least amount of the same meat. The same study also concluded that it is best to eat red meat in moderation in order to prevent end-stage renal disease.
Reduce sugar intake
It is important to reduce your sugar intake and avoid eating junk food. This is because sugar, which is largely contained in processed food products, can lead to hormonal imbalance and blood profile changes if consumed neglectfully. High consumption of these empty calories can also cause obesity and diabetes, which can then disrupt your kidneys ability to function optimally. Similarly, eating junk food which are high-fat, high-sugar and high-calorie can cause long-term damage to the kidneys, as well as diabetes.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep on a daily basis is a non-dietary lifestyle choice that not only aids in preventing kidney disease, it also provides a number of other health benefits as well. In contrast, sleeping for shorter durations can lead to a rapid decline in kidney function. This is due to the fact that the body functions on a natural daily rhythm that is based on regular sleep-wake cycles. Should this natural cycle be disrupted, kidney functions may be compromised. Aim to clock a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily to prevent a host of health problems, which include kidney disease.
A sedentary lifestyle, particularly in reference to individuals who work desk jobs for long hours, can also increase vulnerability to kidney damage and cardiac arrest due to hypertension. Hypertension gradually damages the kidneys and heart, apart from birthing other various health problems. The best way to combat sedentary living is to be more active. Get into the habit of brisk walking, performing strength training or even dancing (zumba) as these forms of exercises would promote an increase in blood flow and oxygen levels in your body. A minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercises can help burn fats, reducing the risk of heart disease. It also helps to lower your blood sugar level, which in turn helps prevent kidney disease.
Kidney damage is an irreversible ailment. And although you may not be able to turn back the hands of time, rest assured that you can still take the necessary steps in preventing it from worsening through the right preventive methods.