An estimated 20 million Americans are believed to have kidney disease, with thousands more potentially at risk for developing kidney problems.1 Kidney damage doesn’t usually happen overnight. It is a steady process that occurs over several years as a result of some poor lifestyle choices and improper management of other conditions like diabetes.
As one study observed, the more bad habits you have, the worse it gets. Researchers found that test subjects with 3 to 4 bad habits dubbed “unhealthy lifestyle behaviors,” grew their risk of developing chronic kidney disease by 337 percent compared to people who had no bad habits
Smoking adversely impacts your blood pressure. You also increase cardiovascular risk since smoking increases your heart rate, narrows the blood vessels in your kidneys, damages arterial branches, and causes arteriosclerosis in the renal arteries. These, in turn, stack the odds against you for kidney damage.3
Smoking is deadly for those with diabetes because it increases the chances of kidney problems. Smokers run the risk of losing kidney function faster than non-smokers. But quitting smoking will significantly decrease any future risks.
2. Constantly Holding It In
Not urinating often enough can be bad for your kidneys. Nature’s call is meant to be answered in a regular, timely manner and if you don’t, your body and kidneys in particular retain all the toxins meant to be expelled. Over time, this can actually lead to incontinence as well as kidney stones and other forms of kidney damage.
3. Indulging Your Sweet Tooth Too Often
Having excess sweet foods like desserts, candy, and packaged snacks and sodas can be bad for your kidneys. A study confirmed that consuming too much fructose could bring a rise in uric acid levels and ultimately lead to cardiorenal disease.4
Those with diabetes are already at high risk of developing renal problems; too much sugar in your diet can worsen this situation. Be sure to read food labels and pick foods that are low in sugar and high in fiber.
4. Not Monitoring Your Blood Pressure
It is important to keep track of your blood pressure since hypertension is a leading cause of kidney damage. Keep to the recommended levels set by your doctor and take measures to control any high blood pressure. The level is usually set at under 140/90 mm Hg.
5. Winging It With Medication
Sticking to the prescribed medicines is important. Certain medication can cause kidney damage if taken incorrectly or not closely monitored. If your doctor has suggested a specific dosage for a fixed duration, take it only for that long and no more.
OTC pain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are all bad for your kidneys if taken regularly or on a daily basis. Certain antibiotics (aminoglycosides, amphotericin B, cephalosporins, bacitracin, and vancomycin) can also be harmful if you have delicate kidneys.6
6. Skipping Exercise
Exercise is good for the body’s circulation and can help you manage conditions like blood pressure and diabetes. Overweight or obese people can cut the load on their body by exercising.
As one study showed, weight loss can positively impact renal function in severely obese individuals. For everyone else, exercise helps keep the body and cardiovascular system in good working order.
7. Not Eating Right
Eating healthy may not always mean you’re eating right when you have kidney trouble. If your kidneys are already strained, things change a little. Your doctor may suggest a diet that has less potassium and phosphorus. This means traditionally “bad” foods like white rice, white bread, and pasta suddenly become good for you.
What shouldn’t you eat?
- Whole-grain versions that are high on phosphorus
- Phosphorus-rich oatmeal, nuts, lentils, bran cereals, fish, meat, and poultry
- Vegetables and fruits like tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, and oranges
What can you eat?
- Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits (especially apples, peaches, green beans, and carrots)
- Rice milk instead of dairy
- Corn and rice-based cereals8
- Protein in moderate quantities
Also, plant protein sources and certain animal protein sources like chicken and fish are easier on your kidneys. Heart-healthy foods are a good idea in general because they also help manage your weight, diabetes, and blood pressure. Certain nutrients like magnesium and vitamin B6 are good for preventing kidney stones.
8. Binge Drinking Or Heavy Alcohol Consumption
Kidneys help your body filter out harmful substances, including alcohol. So when you drink heavily, your kidneys are under tremendous pressure. Doing this on a regular basis can cause damage to the renal system.
Alcohol is extremely dehydrating, and an excess level in your body can cause your organs to be inadequately hydrated and hamper their performance. Alcohol is also a cause of liver disease, which in turn interferes with the regulation of blood flow to the kidneys.9
9. Going Heavy On The Salt
High levels of sodium in your diet, whether in the form of salt in your cooking or more commonly through hidden sources, are potentially problematic, especially if you have a tendency for hypertension.
Many snacks, junk, canned, and packaged foods contain high amounts of sodium, so cut down on these. Opt for fresh cut fruit, vegetables, nuts, or homemade snacks instead. Limit sodium intake to under 2,300 mg a day.