March is National Kidney Month, and every year around this time, organizations and institutes like the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) bring awareness to kidney disease in the hopes of preventing and curing it. In this article, we are going to discuss the most prevalent kidney disease in America, chronic kidney disease.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Affecting nearly 40 million American adults, chronic kidney disease is unfortunately diagnosed all too often. This disease prevents your kidneys from properly filtering blood, enabling certain wastes within your body to build up and potentially leading to further complications.
Chronic Kidney Disease Risk Factors
Certain conditions and uncontrollable factors put people at higher risk for chronic kidney disease including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Family history
Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease
Often times the symptoms of chronic kidney disease are subtle, and as you’ll see in the list of symptoms below, many of them can easily be unrelated to kidney disease. This is why it is so important to regularly have blood and urine tests for early detection. When caught early, doctors can help to prevent the disease from getting worse.
Some of the symptoms of chronic kidney disease include:
- chest pain
- dry skin
- itching or numbness
- feeling tired
- increased or decreased urination
- loss of appetite
- muscle cramps
- shortness of breath
- sleep problems
- trouble concentrating
- weight loss
Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy
Many of the factors that can contribute to the risk of being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease are out of your control; however, one thing you do have control over is your diet. A nutritious diet filled with foods that promote kidney health can also positively impact other areas of your physical health including blood pressure and overall heart health.
Tips for making healthy food choices:
- Cook with a mix of spices instead of salt.
- Choose veggie toppings such as spinach, broccoli, and peppers for your pizza.
- Try baking or broiling meat, chicken, and fish instead of frying.
- Serve foods without gravy or added fats.
- Try to choose foods with little or no added sugar.
- Gradually work your way down from whole milk to 2 percent milk until you’re drinking and cooking with fat-free (skim) or low-fat milk and milk products.
- Eat foods made from whole grains—such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and whole-grain corn—every day. Use whole-grain bread for toast and sandwiches; substitute brown rice for white rice for home-cooked meals and when dining out.
- Read food labels. Choose foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
- Slow down at snack time. Eating a bag of low-fat popcorn takes longer than eating a slice of cake. Peel and eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice.
- Try keeping a written record of what you eat for a week. It can help you see when you tend to overeat or eat foods high in fat or calories.
Other actions you can take to promote healthy kidneys include getting enough sleep, effectively managing stress, and getting regular exercise.