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The weather's cooling down and the leaves are changing colors – it's the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. Here are the National Kidney Foundation's top 10 ways to kick start a healthy lifestyle this fall.
Get an annual physical and flu shot. The back-to-school season is a nice reminder to schedule that annual check-up. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that all patients with chronic kidney disease, including those with a kidney transplant, obtain a flu shot.
Exercise regularly. No gym? No problem. Take advantage of the still moderate temperatures and hit the pavement outside. Try to incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week, but even walking for 15-30 minutes 3-5 times a week can make a difference. Not only is exercising good for your body, but you can take a lifesaving step to fight kidney disease by participating in an upcoming Kidney Walk. It's a family-friendly event, so everyone can join!
Quit smoking. Smoking has many negative effects on your health. In addition to causing lung cancer and lung disease, smoking is associated with kidney disease, kidney cancer and bladder cancer. Smoking slows the blood flow to vital organs and can worsen already existing kidney disease. Quitting smoking is difficult, but it is one of the most important lifestyle changes that you can make to protect your kidneys and impact your overall health. For quitting tips and resources, click here.
Control weight. Maintaining a healthy weight has important implications for your kidneys. When someone is obese, the kidneys have to work harder to filter out toxins and to meet the metabolic demands of the increased body mass index (BMI). This is called hyperfiltration and increases your risk of developing kidney disease. Obesity also increases your chance of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, the major risk factors for kidney disease. Losing weight can help reduce this risk.
Limit alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking can hurt your liver and can also increase blood pressure.
Reduce salt intake. Step away from the salt shaker and watch for high sodium levels in processed foods. High blood pressure causes both kidney and heart diseases and people with kidney failure are three times as likely to have heart disease.
Follow a balanced diet. Moderation, moderation, moderation! Everyone's dietary needs are different. Choose foods that will fuel your body. You'll not only feel full, but eating healthy foods will provide you with energy to get through the day. If you need help planning meals, your doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian so that you can work together to choose foods that meet your nutritional needs.
Stay hydrated. Just because the weather is cooling down, it doesn't mean that your body doesn't need fluid. Water is sugar, fat and calorie-free, making it an excellent choice for quenching thirst. Not drinking enough water has been linked with kidney stone development.
Learn your family medical history. Many diseases run in families. Knowing which ones run in yours can help your doctor catch these diseases early enough to prevent or minimize severity and risk. Steps may include lifestyle changes, testing to detect a disease at an early stage, and/or medical treatments.
Monitor cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in your blood. Everyone has some cholesterol in the bloodstream, but when too much builds up it can prevent blood from circulating and a blockage can form. If this occurs in heart vessels, it can cause a heart attack. Kidney disease and heart disease often go hand-in-hand, so it is suggested that people with kidney disease monitor cholesterol levels yearly. Your doctor may want to do them more frequently based on your health.