March 1 marked the beginning of Kidney Health Month and March 12 is World Kidney Day.
When caring for someone with kidney disease it’s vital that your loved one eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to stay healthy for as long as possible. Kidney disease typically affects the body’s ability to get rid of waste and excess fluids, causing them to build up. Eating well and exercising, however, can help regulate some of the responsibilities that the kidneys are usually in charge of.
What is the best nutrition for someone with kidney disease?
There is no standard diet for someone with kidney disease, and each meal plan will be different depending on factors such as age, medical history, and the stage of kidney function. However, here are some typical diet changes to discuss with your loved one’s doctor and dietitian:
- Follow a low sodium diet. Salt causes water retention and raises blood pressure which can be harmful for those with kidney disease. Avoid salt in cooking or on the table, use fresh or frozen products rather than canned, pickled, breaded or processed foods, read all nutrition labels and choose low sodium varieties. Try to avoid sodium substitutes which often have high levels of potassium.
- Balance protein intake. Too much protein can cause a waste product called urea to build up in the bloodstream, while too little can cause a loss of muscle and weight, fatigue, and make fighting off infections difficult.
- Manage potassium levels. Potassium keeps nerves and muscles functioning properly, but too much or too little can affect the heart.
- Limit foods that contain moderate to high amounts of phosphorous. When the kidneys are not working well, phosphate builds up and can cause problems like itching and reduced calcium leading to weak bones.
- Manage fluid intake. Keep track of the amount of liquids consumed and stay at the levels recommended by a dietitian. Watch for signs of excess fluid in the body, including rapid weight gain, high blood pressure, coughing, shortness of breath, and swelling in eyes ankles and hands. Also watch for signs of dehydration such as dizziness, low blood pressure and a lower than normal body weight.
- Take vitamin and mineral supplements. As the disease progresses your loved one may need to take extra vitamins and minerals. Stay in contact with their doctor and dietitian to make sure they are taking the most appropriate supplements.
Physical activity for someone with kidney disease
Another important part of staying healthy while battling kidney disease is to get active because it can help manage weight, keep bones strong (a common problem for those with kidney disease), improve blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, etc.
- If you are caring for someone in the early stages of kidney disease the usual recommendation is that they get 45 to 60 minutes of physical activity four to five times a week. This is for a great way to regulate high blood pressure which affects 95 percent of people who suffer from kidney disease.
- This level of physical activity may be too difficult for older adults or those undergoing dialysis. If possible, try to build up to a minimum of 15 minutes of physical activity per day. Start slowly with five to ten minutes of comfortable activity each day and gradually increase the time from there. It helps to make a plan and set a realistic goal. Some suggestions include: walking, light stretching, gentle weights, a specialty fitness class, tai chi, and dancing.