How Does My Weight Affect My Risk for Kidney Disease?

January 24, 2017, 11:56am EST

Less is More When You Heart Your Kidneys

If you’re carrying some extra pounds, it may be time to slim down to show your kidneys some love. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health – including your kidneys. Being overweight or obese may increase the risk for kidney disease in several different ways. 
The first reason is based on an old saying: "One thing leads to another." Being overweight increases the risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. In turn, diabetes and high blood pressure are the two main causes of kidney disease. 
Being overweight can directly affect your kidneys, too. Extra weight forces the kidneys to work harder and filter wastes above the normal level.  Over time, this extra work increases the risk for kidney disease. Just remember, when there’s more of you, your kidneys have to work harder to keep up.
So how do you lighten up to protect your kidneys and overall health? Here are ways to reduce your risk for kidney disease if you are overweight or obese:
  • Know your Body Mass Index (BMI):  This number gives you a rough idea of your total percent of body fat.  Normal BMI is usually between 18 and 25. A BMI between 25 to 30 is considered overweight, and greater than 30 is considered obese. You may have a higher weight compared to other people, but you may have a normal BMI.  This happens if you have more body weight coming from muscle than coming from fat.  Having more muscle than fat is healthier. Eat a diet rich in fruits and veggies.

  • Make lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and watching portion sizes.

  • Get your kidneys checked. It just takes two simple tests – blood and urine – at your primary care doctor’s office to check for any signs of kidney disease.

  • Control blood sugar if you have diabetes.

  • Control blood pressure if you have high blood pressure.

It’s great if you want to lose weight, but don’t be “The Bad Diet Guru.” Ask for advice from your healthcare team. If you do need to drop some pounds, it’s important to talk over any weight loss program with your healthcare provider, especially if you have any stage of kidney disease.  
For more on how to "heart your kidneys" and how the National Kidney Foundation is using tattoos to remind people that, in many cases, kidney disease can be prevented, visit