In commemoration of World Kidney Day which was observed on March 9, we are highlighting some of the underlying causes of kidney disease and steps that can be taken to avoid or limit them. Obesity is a well-known risk factor of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. A less known and recognized, but equally important ramification of obesity is chronic kidney disease (CKD). For that reason, kidney health awareness focused this year on taking steps to reduce global obesity.

Obesity may cause chronic kidney disease in a variety of ways. It may contribute to it indirectly by inducing or worsening diabetes and hypertension, and it may cause kidney damage directly by placing an unduly high burden on the kidneys over many years. The best means of fighting chronic kidney disease is prevention. Preventing chronic kidney disease is possible through simple healthy lifestyle practices.

Hydration

Drinking plenty of water throughout your daily activities will provide your healthy kidneys with the needed support to do their job better. The kidney works as a filtration for the blood by reducing waste materials. Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day is recommended, unless your doctor has prescribed for you a fluid restriction, necessary sometimes for cardiac problems.

Healthy foods

A proper diet filled with fresh foods is best for a healthy weight and over-all body function. Bad dietary habits contribute to underlying diseases that can lead to chronic kidney disease. A diet high in fat, sugar and salt will contribute to medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes; both of which are causes of cardiovascular and kidney diseases in our population. Following a healthy diet, moderate eating habits and controlling your weight are recommended for optimum health.

Exercise

Exercise regularly. If you’re healthy, getting your exercise is a good idea because, like healthy eating habits, regular physical activity can stave off weight gain and high blood pressure. Strenuous forms of exercise are not necessary; it is always recommended to start slow. Remember getting active can be fun! Try involving a friend or family member in your workouts. Create groups that can work out together and make the experience much more enjoyable. Exercise can be simple, such as a long walk through your neighbourhood, cycling, playing a sport or doing gentle stretches at home.

Reduce unhealthy habits

Smoking can damage blood vessels, which will then decrease the flow of blood in the kidneys. When the kidneys don’t have adequate blood flow, they can’t function at optimal levels. Smoking also increases the risk of high blood pressure and cancer in the kidney. Taking over-the-counter and other medications too regularly over prolonged periods can cause kidney damage. This includes common treatments such as Ibuprofen and aspirin. If you’re at risk, it is advisable to get regular kidney function screening. If you have either diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney stones, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, or a family history of kidney disease, your physician should screen you for kidney dysfunction as part of your routine care for those conditions; it is just a simple blood and urine test.

Together we can bring awareness to the importance of our health and its long term benefits for overall function including our kidneys. Choosing a healthy lifestyle and increasing one’s overall activity will help prevent obesity and kidney diseases.