Ways to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

Take NSAIDs only as directed and only if you really need them.

Don’t Overdo Certain Medications

NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and naproxen. They can damage your kidneys if you take too many at once or take them too often. And using proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for an ulcer or GERD for a long time can raise your chances of chronic kidney disease. You should only take them if your doctor says you need them.

Some kinds of antibiotics can damage your kidneys.

Take Care With Antibiotics

These bacteria-fighting drugs can damage your kidneys if you use them too often. It can happen even if you're perfectly healthy, though it's more serious if your kidneys don't work as well as they should. Some types, like penicillin, sulfonamides, and cephalosporins, are more likely to cause problems.

Herbal supplements may be harmful to the kidneys, especially when mixed with certain medications.

Skip Herbal Supplements

Supplement makers don't have to prove their products are safe, and some can damage your kidneys. Those can be especially harmful if you have kidney disease because they can make the condition worse or affect how some medicines work. Talk with your doctor before trying any herbal supplement.

Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables may help protect kidney health.

Eat Healthy

Your kidneys process everything you eat or drink, including anything that's bad for you, like lots of fat, salt, and sugar. Over time, a bad diet can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and other conditions that are hard on your kidneys. A healthy diet has lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and few processed foods.

Salt may increase blood pressure and harm kidneys.

Watch Your Salt

This mineral affects people in different ways. For some, it seems to raise the amount of protein in their urine. That can harm your kidneys or make kidney disease worse if you already have it. Lots of salt also raises your chances of high blood pressure, a typical cause of kidney disease, and kidney stones, which can be very painful and possibly cause damage without treatment.

Adequate water intake helps flush out the kidneys and keep them healthy.

Drink Enough Water

Water helps get important nutrients to your kidneys and move waste to your bladder in the form of urine. If you don't drink enough, the tiny filters inside your kidneys can get stopped up and lead to kidney stones and infections. Even mild dehydration can damage your kidneys if it happens often enough. Four to six cups a day is typically about right, but you might need more if you're sick or out in the heat.

Exercise helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, which can damage kidneys.

Exercise

Just like a healthy diet, this helps prevent conditions like diabetes and heart disease that can lead to kidney damage. But don't try to go from couch potato to gym rat in a day. Too much exercise can also damage your kidneys if you're not ready for it. Work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes at least five days a week. Start slow if you haven't done it in a while, and check with your doctor first if you have health issues.

Discuss your risk factors with your doctor and get regular screening for kidney disease.

Get Screened

It's important to know your risk for kidney disease. It's more likely if you or close relatives have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of kidney failure. In these cases, your doctor might suggest specific kidney tests as part of your regular checkup. The earlier you catch it, the easier it is to treat and sometimes even stop.

Heavy drinking has the potential to harm the kidneys.

Be Careful With Alcohol

If you're healthy, a drink or two isn't likely to hurt your kidneys. But binge drinking (having more than four drinks in less than 2 hours) can cause sudden, serious damage and possibly lead to long-term problems. And alcohol often can dehydrate you, which can keep your kidneys from working well and lead to weight gain, liver disease, high blood pressure, and other conditions that put more stress on them.

Smoking damages blood vessels and ups the risk of kidney cancer.

Quit Smoking

Smoking raises your risk of kidney cancer and damages blood vessels, which affects your kidneys by slowing blood flow to them. Plus, smoking can affect certain drugs that treat high blood pressure. This is serious because uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease.

Manage diabetes and blood pressure if you have them to protect your kidneys.

Manage Health Problems

The two most common conditions that affect your kidneys are diabetes and high blood pressure. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help keep both under control. With diabetes, it's also important to keep a close eye on your blood sugar and take insulin when you need it. For high blood pressure, check your numbers regularly and take all medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes them.

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REFERENCES:

  • Acta Medica Iranica: "Antibiotics induced acute kidney injury: incidence, risk factors, onset time and outcome."
  • Blood Pressure Association: "Salt's effects on your body."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "How Salt Can Impact Your Blood Pressure, Heart and Kidneys," "What Does Moderate Exercise Mean, Anyway?" "Supplements, OTCs May Hurt Your Kidneys," "7 Secrets to Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy."
  • Clinical Journal of American Society of Nephrology: "Principles of Screening for Chronic Kidney Disease," "A Review of Dietary Supplement–Induced Renal Dysfunction."
  • Harvard Health Publishing: "How much water should you drink?"
  • Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: "Proton Pump Inhibitors and CKD."
  • MedShadow Foundation: "6 Medications That Can Harm the Kidneys."
  • National Kidney Foundation: "Smoking and Your Health," "Alcohol and Your Kidneys," "Which Drugs are Harmful to Your Kidneys?" "Herbal Supplements and Kidney Disease," "Exercise: What You Should Know," "Can Dehydration Affect Your Kidneys?" "Six-Step Guide to Protecting Kidney Health."
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What's In a Name?"
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease," "Preventing Chronic Kidney Disease."
  • UNC Kidney Center: "Chronic Kidney Disease: Medicines to Avoid/Okay to Take/Antibiotics."
  • UpToDate: "Screening for chronic kidney disease."
  • USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov: "Start Simple With My Plate."
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program: "Aristolochic Acids."
  • Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine Action on Salt: "Kidney disease and kidney stones."
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