The month of March aims to raise awareness about chronic kidney disease and kidney cancer. The former affects about 37 million people in the United States and causes more deaths than malignancies of the breast and prostate. Meanwhile, statistics from the American Cancer Society estimates that 2020 will experience 73,750 new cases of kidney cancer and 14,830 related casualties.
Considering millions of people succumb to kidney diseases, it is crucial to take excellent care of your bean-shaped organs. Their primary functions keep your body healthy by helping to produce red blood cells, promoting good bone health, regulating blood pressure, detoxifying your internal organs, and maintaining normal levels of essential minerals contained in your blood.
Ensuring your kidneys’ tip-top condition, especially as you grow older, starts with breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones.
Are You Damaging Your Kidneys Unintentionally?
To support the worthy cause of National Kidney Month, New Hope Unlimited compiled a list of common habits that may harm your kidneys.
- Not Emptying Your Bladder Right Away
Ignoring nature’s call is one of the leading causes of kidney problems. When you often resist the urge to pee, the urine remains in your bladder for a prolonged period and allows bacteria to multiply much faster. Eventually, holding your pee can lead to dire consequences such as kidney infections and urinary incontinence.
- Chronic Sitting
Exercising on a regular basis improves your blood pressure and normal glucose metabolism, both of which are important factors in maintaining good kidney health. In contrast, sitting for too long and living an inactive lifestyle may increase your risk of kidney disease by 30 percent. Moreover, sitting is the new smoking and may raise your risk of chronic heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who spend over eight hours a day sitting in front of a desk, try your best to lead an active lifestyle at home. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines: at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or a combination of both.
- Overtraining and Exhausting Your Body
Physical activities are important, but there is such a thing as too much exercising. Pushing yourself too hard for too long can cause a condition called rhabdomyolysis, in which your muscles break down and release myoglobin into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is a protein that can damage your kidney cells.
- Overusing Painkillers
Although aspirin, ibuprofen, and other anti-inflammatory drugs are safe in moderation, regular consumption can result in kidney damage and even complete kidney failure. The science behind this phenomenon is due to over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics decreasing the blood flow to your kidneys and obstructing their functions, especially if you have existing kidney problems.
If you are experiencing aches and pains, remember that you should only take painkillers at the lowest dose possible and for a short period of time. Consult your doctor if the discomfort you are feeling is intolerable.
- Not Drinking Enough Water
It can be tempting to drink a glass of artificial juice instead of water, but the latter is what your kidneys need to produce urine to eliminate toxins from your body. If you drink an inadequate amount of water in your everyday life, serious health problems can occur, including painful kidney stones.
For most individuals, drinking 1.5 to 2 liters of pure water a day helps maintain healthy kidneys. You know you are drinking enough water when the color of your pee is light yellow. A darker color might be a potential sign of kidney damage.
- Drinking Soda
There is a close connection between kidney problems and diet soda consumption. A 2009 published study showed that more than 3,000 women who drank two or more sodas each day experienced a significant decline in kidney function. Surprisingly, unlike artificially-sweetened beverages, sugar-sweetened drinks did not produce the same adverse results.
- Sleep Deprivation
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential not only for your overall well-being, but also for your kidney health. Your sleep-wake cycle regulates and coordinates your kidney function, and this particular organ renews its tissues only when you are sleeping. Therefore, if you are not getting enough rest at night, you are interrupting this vital process and elevating your risk of kidney damage. Improper sleep may also increase your chances of developing certain cancer types. Read The 411 on Cancer and Sleep Deprivation for more information.
- Eating Too Much Meat
About 1 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight is the recommended daily intake of protein. Excessive consumption of animal protein causes an overproduction of acid in your blood, which can lead to a condition called acidosis. The kidneys’ inability to maintain balanced pH levels characterizes acidosis. Eventually, it can cause digestive issues and chronic kidney problems.
- Too Much Salt and Sugar Intake
Your kidneys metabolize approximately 95 percent of the sodium you consume. Therefore, if your diet comprises an overabundance of salty products, your kidneys need to work overtime to remove the excess sodium. The result is reduced kidney function that can cause water retention in your body, which, in turn, can elevate your blood pressure.
Excessive sugar intake may also contribute to the occurrence of high blood pressure, as well as lead to diabetes and obesity — a known cancer risk factor. These are among the leading causes of kidney failure.
According to Healthline, about 3.75 grams (or 0.75 tsp) of salt a day is enough. For sugar, the recommended amount is about 25-38 grams (or 6-9 tsp) per day. You can prevent overwhelming your kidneys with salt and sugar by paying close attention to the ingredients in processed and packaged foods.
- Ignoring Common Infections
When you have a cough, runny nose, stomachache, or other common illnesses, your body creates proteins called antibodies to fight bacteria. In most cases, these molecules settle in the filtering portions of your kidneys and cause inflammation. If your illness persists for a long time, you also risk damaging your kidney health.
Always treat bacterial infections properly to protect your kidneys. If you feel unwell, take a break from work, get enough sleep, and use antibiotics if necessary.
If you are guilty of these habits, start making positive changes today to improve your kidney health. It is not too late to unlearn these damaging behaviors.