Our kidneys play a vital role in our body. The two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, remove wastes and extra fluid from our body.
Our kidneys also remove acid that is produced by the cells of our body and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals.
Healthy kidneys filter about a half cup of blood every minute, removing wastes and extra water to make urine. But for them to function very well, you have the responsibility to protect them. As we mark World Kidney Day, here are some tips to protect your Kidneys:
1. Eat healthier foods. When you’re stressed, it may be easy to just grab for the potato chips, but junk foods are typically highly processed and high in sodium and phosphorus additives which can have negative effects on the kidneys. Consider following the DASH diet which focuses on eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products.
2. Limit salt and caffeine. High caffeine intake can lead to jitters and doesn’t always mix well with the physical signs of stress. Set aside the salt shaker and read nutrition labels to determine the amount of sodium in the foods and drinks you consume. Limiting salt and caffeine intake is especially important if you have high blood pressure, which is the second leading cause of kidney disease and also increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
3. Set aside time to relax. Relaxation means something different to everyone. Carve out “me” time in your calendar to do something you find relaxing. This can include things you can do easily at home on a regular basis, such as yoga and meditation, or something that may be more of a special treat, such as taking a vacation or getting a massage.
4. Exercise regularly. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins – chemicals that have been shown to boost mood and reduce feelings of pain. Regular exercise can also help lower high blood pressure and even small amounts of physical activity have been proven to lower stress levels. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, lift free weights while watching TV, and park your car further from the store or get off the bus a stop early to increase your steps.
5. Reduce the amount of sugar and fat in your diet. The average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar each year, the equivalent of almost 3 pounds (or 6 cups!) of sugar each week. Fat is an important and necessary part of your diet, but should be limited because at 9 calories per gram, it provides nearly double the amount of calories per gram of protein or carbohydrates. This makes it a frequent weight gain culprit. If you have or are at risk for diabetes, heart or blood vessel diseases, it’s particularly important to monitor your intake.
6. Maintain a positive attitude and outlook. How you think impacts how you feel, so maintaining a positive outlook and reducing stress can play an important role in staying healthy.
7. Get plenty of sleep. A good night’s sleep goes a long way. Being well rested is more important than many people realize. Did you know that studies have shown that not getting enough sleep may lead to an increased appetite and in turn, weight gain?
8. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Talk to a friend, loved one, spiritual leader, or healthcare professional. Write about how you’re feeling in a journal. When you put your problems on paper, it’s easier to think about possible solutions. Making a list can help you evaluate and prioritize what issues need to be addressed, in order to calmly tackle the causes of your stress.
9. Set goals and expectations. Try using the SMART method so that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Trackable.
10. Listen to music. Whether slow and soothing, or beats to get you moving, listening to music (and even dancing and singing along!) can put you in less stressed mood.