Each February, a simple trip to your local supermarket is all you need to recognize that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, as heart-shaped items stuff the aisles. As we celebrate the heart–to–heart connection with those we love, the National Kidney Foundation urges Americans to recognize another strong connection – the one shared between the heart and kidneys – by providing the top 5 ways to keep both your kidneys and heart healthy.
- Have your physician test you for both heart and kidney disease. It turns out that heart disease is a risk factor for kidney disease and kidney disease is a known risk factor for heart disease. Hence, if you know you have one, you should have yourself tested for the other.
- Don’t smoke. The strongest modifiable risk factor for both kidney and heart disease is smoking. There is nothing that is more important in the prevention of both heart and kidney disease as stopping smoking. Smoking causes hardening of the arteries which causes both coronary artery disease and nephrosclerosis, or hardening of the kidney due to disease of the blood vessels in it. Smoking is also a risk factor for high blood pressure which can cause both heart and kidney disease.
- Control blood pressure. High blood pressure causes both kidney and heart disease. High blood pressure puts stress on the heart to cause enlargement and thickening of the heart. This ultimately leads to heart failure. High blood pressure causes damage to the blood vessels leading to the kidney filters (called glomeruli). Most people are born with three million filters and as we damage the blood vessels going to the filters, they stop functioning and when we get down to 300,000 filters , dialysis or transplant is necessary to survive. Heart failure will complicate the chances of effectively performing dialysis or having a kidney transplant. High blood pressure drugs, such as ACE (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme)–inhibitors and ARB (Angiotensin Receptor Blockers) agents are effective in treating both kidney disease and heart disease.
- Eat a proper diet. This should be patterned after the DASH diet. The DASH diet encourages low salt intake with increases in vegetables and low fat dairy products. The DASH diet has been shown to lower blood pressure and help to maintain a healthy body weight. In general, you should take in about 200–3000 milligrams of salt or one teaspoon per day. Fat and cholesterol intake should be limited to no more than 30% of calories and for those with high cholesterol, fat and cholesterol should be limited further to no more than 20% of calories. A dietitian may need to be consulted for specific eating recommendations. Click here to check out some kidney–friendly recipes from the Kidney Kitchen.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. This requires balancing calorie intake with exercise and activity. Each pound of fat accounts for approximately 4,000 kilocalories of food intake in excess of activity. Hence, to burn off a pound of fat you must exercise to 4,000 kilocalories in excess of your intake. Body Mass Index, or BMI, a key index for relating a person’s body weight to their height. The BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by the height in meters (m) squared. Ideal body weight is a Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 25 kg/meters squared. Overweight is between 25 and 30 and obesity is defined as a BMI in excess of 30.