5 ways to look after your kidneys

While the risk of kidney disease is sadly higher once we pass the age of 60, there are plenty of simple, easy-to-accomplish ways we can try to reduce that risk. Here are five important factors (beyond the obvious “eat well and don’t drink too much alcohol”) that can help.

Of course, this list is no substitute for personalised, professional medical advice – but it’s a great place to start. Which of these health tips are you following?

1. Ease up on the salt

According to the International Foundation of Kidney Federations, your daily recommended salt intake is just one teaspoon.

There’s an easy way to reduce this, and it’s a great step toward a healthier lifestyle: simply prepare your own food more often, avoiding pre-packaged meals or restaurant food that will, more often than not, add excess salt for appeal. The fresher your ingredients, the more control you’ll have, so it’s a win-win situation.

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2. Don’t rely too much on over-the-counter painkillers

Medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen are harmless enough when used occasionally, or in small recommended doses.

However, the National Kidney Foundation warns that nothing is completely without risk: if you take certain pain-treating medications above the recommended dose, or on an unusually regular basis (more than 10 days for pain, more than 3 for fever), you could be putting your kidneys at risk in the long run.

If nothing else, this comes as a very welcome reminder for those of us who tend to avoid the GP. If you find yourself needing an over-the-counter medicine beyond the recommended period or dose, be sure to see a doctor.

3. Keep an eye on your blood pressure

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Not only will this help you look after your heart and decrease your chances of a stroke; keeping your blood pressure under control is also a great line of defence against kidney damage.

After diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) is the second biggest cause of kidney disease. If you’re regularly concerned about your blood pressure, be sure to ask your GP for a reading and recommendation next time you pay a visit. Home monitors are readily available and – for something that could save your life – relatively inexpensive.

If your blood pressure is above 120/80, you may need to speak to your doctor about changes to diet, exercise or routine.

4. Stay hydrated – but don’t overdo it

One recent study showed that those generally who drink more water have a “significantly lower risk” of kidney disease. But don’t feel too guilty if you’re not getting those eight glasses a day.

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Many researchers have since dismissed the “eight glasses a day” advice as a myth. Our bodies have a very powerful in-built mechanism for keeping us hydrated; it’s called “thirst”.

In fact, the authors of the study warned against “aggressive fluid loading”, which comes with its own set of problems. Instead, we should be aiming for a moderate increase in water.

One of the easiest ways to do this is simply make the effort to keep a water bottle within reach more often, ensuring the body’s thirst impulse doesn’t have to be ignored. Do what you can to keep the idea of hydration more often in mind; your kidneys may someday thank you for it.

5. Exercise (sigh)

Sorry, folks – we know nobody likes to be reminded of this. Kidney Health Australia suggests 30 minutes a day of “moderate-intensity physical activity” to reduce the risk of kidney problems. While the ideal exercise will vary from person to person, this could even be as simple as a brisk walk or gardening session.

Have you (or anyone you know) had to deal with kidney disease? What steps are you taking to keep your kidneys healthy? Do you feel you should be doing more?