Top 6 kidney disease prevention diet and lifestyle tips

Kidney disease is a devastating illness affecting 9% of the world population. In 2017, 1.2 million people died from chronic kidney disease. According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease is one of the top five killer diseases in America. Kidney disease is associated with high blood pressure and obesity, but the most common cause of kidney failure continues to be diabetes. The number of people dying from chronic kidney disease (CKD) is on the rise, according to the World Health Organization. Some evidence-based diet and lifestyle changes can help you lower your risk of getting kidney disease or going on dialysis. Let’s take a look at the top 6 in this video.

Video Transcript

Kidney disease is a devastating illness. It affects millions of people worldwide and can lead to things like dialysis, and the risk of dying from it is quite dramatic. But other things right now that you could be doing that can make a big difference in lowering your risk of developing kidney disease. Well, let’s take a look at the evidence in today’s video.

Before we dive into all of the exciting data, we have to understand how big an impact kidney disease makes. Across the world, kidney disease affects 9.1 percent of the population out there. If you looked at the data from 2017, 1.2 million people died from chronic kidney disease. As of 2017, two and a half million people are already on dialysis due to chronic kidney disease. But if you look at 2030, that number is expected to double to 5.4 million people.

So it means that we have to think of ways of lowering the risk of developing kidney disease. And who are the people most impacted by kidney disease? Well, it turns out, it’s the people that are the most vulnerable for just about everything. People with lower socioeconomic status: the less money you have, the more likely you will be affected. And part of that has to do with care to early access health care; care to high-quality foods and other stuff.

But looking at this, if you’re watching this and saying, well, OK, is there stuff I can do? The answer is absolutely yes. To prevent kidney disease, we have to understand what causes it. The most significant contributor continues to be diabetes, diabetes, and diabetes!  Now obesity is tied to type two diabetes. High blood pressure is linked to obesity.  But diabetes by and far is the largest contributor to developing kidney disease.

So here’s a fascinating study published in 2020. That was a meta-analysis: a review of multiple studies on the same subject to see trends. And in this particular case, they looked at 104 studies and over 2.7 million participants to arrive at their conclusions. What did they find? Well, a number of them starting with nutrition.

They found that if you had higher intakes of vegetables, your risk of developing kidney disease was lower by 21 percent. Similarly, with potassium, your risk was 22 percent lower. And if you’re wondering what has potassium, well, a Whole Foods plant-based diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of potassium. So the more you follow a Whole Foods plant-based diet, the richer your source of potassium is.

This is not the same principle for people with advanced chronic kidney disease. We have to closely monitor their potassium because as the kidney function goes down, they can’t get rid of potassium. High potassium can be very dangerous, leading to arrhythmias and even cardiac arrest. What else did they find? They looked at so many different variables but couldn’t assess them accurately because not all the studies looked at them. What they were able to find were trends. Those trends were in things like coffee, fiber, dairy, folate, legumes, nuts, magnesium, nitrate, plant protein, omega 3, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, E, zinc, all had a lower risk for chronic kidney disease.

On the other hand, red and processed meats had a higher risk.

Now, what about physical activity? Those who exercised more than those who hardly exercised had an 18 percent lower risk. And if you’re wondering what does that mean, how much exercise do I have to do? It was straightforward. They quantified it as at least 30 minutes per day. You got 24 hours in a day, taking 30 minutes out is very doable. And even if you can’t do it at once, you can split it up.

One thing that really surprised me about the study was the protective effect of alcohol intake. The researchers showed that those consuming moderate alcohol intake, which is essentially one drink or less per day, had a 14 percent lower risk of developing kidney disease. Those who had excessive alcohol consumption, meaning more than one to four drinks a day, actually had evidence for direct kidney damage. This was independent of damage to the liver.

Smoking, on the other hand, did not have any protective benefit. In fact, both current smokers and people who had smoked in the past had an 18 percent higher risk. And really, the thought process there is smoking is linked to insulin resistance. And other things it does is directly damages those endothelial cells lining your blood vessels.

Endothelial cells help relax the blood vessels, and smoking causes direct damage. It also creates these advanced glycation end products AGEs, which lead to damage by producing reactive oxygen species inside the body.

Looking at this data, what are the things you can walk away from and apply to your health right now? Here are the six main components.

  1. Eat a diet that’s rich in potassium intake. It lowers your risk for kidney disease by 22 percent. What’s that? A Whole Foods plant-based diet.
  2. Eat a diet that’s rich in vegetables. A Whole Foods plant-based diet reduces kidney disease risk by twenty-one percent.
  3. Follow the SELF Principle and make sure that you’re getting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Exercise lowers your risk of developing kidney disease by 18 percent.
  4. Alcohol consumption, one drink or less per day, reduces kidney disease risk by 15 percent.
  5. If you’re a smoker, quit now! It’s the best single thing you can do for your health right now is to quit smoking. So smokers and former smokers had an 18 percent higher risk.
  6. Lastly, salt intake: if you’re somebody who consumes a lot of salt, cut it down. Once again, Whole Food plant-based diets are naturally low in salt. Low salt diets are protective, while high salt diets had a 21 percent higher risk.
Sean Hashmi M.D.
Thanks for visiting my site. I have dedicated my life to helping others improve their health and wellness. I am a board-certified Nephrologist and Obesity Medicine Specialist. I live in Southern California with my amazing wife and 2 incredible daughters. In my spare time, I love working out, spinning, and practicing yoga. Sean

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