When it comes to taking care of your health, your kidneys might be the last thing on your mind. However, this set of organs plays a significant role in several major bodily functions, and it’s estimated that a whopping 15 percent of US adults are suffering with chronic kidney disease. Luckily, new research says that adjusting your lifestyle in a few simple ways can help you combat the dangerous condition.
What is kidney disease?
Kidney disease, also referred to as chronic kidney disease (CKD) or kidney failure, is a condition which results in the gradual decline of kidney function. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common symptoms of kidney disease include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and weakness
- Sleep problems
- Changes in how much you urinate
- Decreased mental sharpness
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Persistent itching
- Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
- Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs
- High blood pressure (hypertension) that’s difficult to control
The kidneys play several important roles in the body. In healthy individuals, they remove waste and extra fluid from the body, help control blood pressure, make red blood cells which deliver oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body, keep your bones healthy, control the pH levels in your body, and more! As you might imagine, disfunction in the kidneys can lead to a slew of health problems. While there are other risk factors for contracting kidney disease, new science tells us that there are easy ways to reduce your risk you can start implementing today.
In a recent review of studies published in The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, a team of researchers from Australia and Sweden aimed to determined which lifestyle factors influenced the occurrence of kidney disease. Their review included over 2.5 million healthy people from 16 different countries, with main points of focus on diet and nutrition, exercise, and use of tobacco and alcohol.
From their in-depth investigation, the researchers were able to determine that when it came to nutrition, higher intake of potassium and vegetables were associated with lower incidence of CKD, while higher salt intake was associated with an increased risk. As for exercise, being physically active rather than sedentary was also associated with a lower risk. And lastly, current and former smokers had higher instances of kidney disease, while those who drank moderately (that’s one drink per day for women), as opposed to not at all, had a lower risk.
Evidence from this review can aid doctors and individuals in the treatment and prevention of this life-threatening condition. “We collected all the available evidence for food, nutrients, beverages, physical activity, alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking and whether these were linked to the risk of developing kidney problems,” said study co-author Dr. Jaimon Kelly. “We discovered that lifestyle choices may play a big role in the risk of getting kidney disease and we think these can help clinical decision-making by doctors and healthy patients on lifestyle choices and preventing kidney damage.”
So if you’re trying to take better care of some of your body’s most important organs, be sure to get more veggies in your diet, eat more foods rich in potassium like bananas and avocados (unless you already have kidney disease, in which case you should limit potassium intake!), cut out salty foods, incorporate some movement into your daily routine, monitor your alcohol consumption, and get help to quit smoking.
We’re grateful for research like this which tells us just how we can live a long, healthy life.