Posted: March 7, 2018

At a glance: tips for maintaining the health of your kidneys

March is Kidney Month, and if you haven’t already, it’s time to give your kidneys the love they deserve.

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from a litre of blood every minute. When kidneys fail, dialysis treatments are required until a transplant can be arranged.

Grand River Hospital is Waterloo-Wellington’s regional centre for specialized kidney care. We provide kidney care through our two campuses as well as at satellite locations and with partner hospitals across the region. Our care providers are dedicated to supporting your health needs. They also want you to take steps to keep your kidneys healthy.

Dr Michael Wang

Nephrologist Dr. Michael Wang offers the following tips to ensure your kidneys remain at their peak performance:

Eat a balanced diet and exercise! Nothing new here, you’ve heard it all before. These measures improve the health of your arteries. Healthy arteries are key to not just the health of your kidneys, but also your heart, brain, and circulation as a whole.

  • Aim to achieve 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week. 
  • Limit salt intake to three to five grams per day (1.5 to two grams of sodium), reduce simple sugars and trans-saturated fats, while increasing your vegetable and fibre intake. 

Don’t forget to drink water! Hydrate your kidneys especially on hot days, periods of vigorous exercise, and on sick days (like when you have a bad flu or stomach bug). For healthy kidneys, you should try to drink about two to three litres of liquids per day. However, if you have any major diseases of the heart or liver, this rule might not apply. Check with your specialists to review how much you should drink per day.

Quit smoking! Cigarettes accelerate the development of renovascular disease, meaning that the small arteries supplying the kidneys get plugged up with cholesterol and narrow over time. Kidneys do not function well without good blood flow, so kick the habit! Speak to your family doctor if you need some help in quitting, or call the Smokers’ Helpline at 1-877-513-5333 or (opens in a new tab). 

Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) whenever possible! Examples of medications belonging to this class include Ibuprofen and Naproxen. Check with your pharmacist if you are not sure. NSAIDs can injure the kidneys in many ways, like reducing blood flow to the kidneys or causing an acute inflammation of the kidneys. Often, a simple Tylenol may do the trick to control your pain. 

Look after your other organs! Two main causes of chronic kidney disease in North America are diabetes and hypertension. Work closely with your medical team to target appropriate control of your sugars (target A1c less than seven per cent) and blood pressure (less than 140/90 for most — but not all — patients).

A portrait of GRH nurse practitioner Nan Miller

Women’s health needs can be unique with respect to kidney health. GRH nurse practitioner Nan Miller works in the hospital’s renal program, and offers these tips particularly for women…

In general, take the time to have regular physical examinations with your primary health care provider. Women have chronic kidney disease at the same rate as men.  Yet often, women are also key care providers for others in their families who may have health needs. It’s important to take care of yourself, especially if you’re caring for someone else.

Recognize signs of urinary tract infections and seek medical attention promptly. A UTI cannot be treated with herbal remedies or by drinking a lot of cranberry juice. Pyelonephritis is a potentially severe infection that involves one or both kidneys and it usually stems from urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections are more common in women. This risk also increases during pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, attend prenatal care as recommended by your primary health care provider. These care recommendations come from research, and are based on the unique needs of women when they’re expecting. Pregnancy complications of pre-eclampsia with high blood pressures and pyelonephritis may cause chronic kidney disease. Partners can play a vital role in encouraging their loved ones to stick to their prenatal care recommendations. It’s all about your family’s health.

Thank you to GRH’s kidney care providers throughout Waterloo Wellington for providing life-sustaining care, and to our patients for entrusting us with their health needs.