The 10 Habits That Can Easily Damage Your Kidneys

If you’re among the large percentage of Americans with chronic kidney disease, chances are you haven’t been aware of it. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is often called the silent killer because there are few symptoms at first and its progress can be slow, so it can go unnoticed or misdiagnosed for months or years. By the time many people are diagnosed, their kidneys have already sustained irreversible damage that may lead to more serious conditions like kidney failure, dialysis and even death.

1) Sugar

Some experts recommend that you limit your daily sugar intake to 25 grams or less, which is about six teaspoons. This includes both table sugar and other types of added sugars. Sugar can cause your blood pressure to rise because it’s a high-glycemic food—it raises blood glucose quickly. Plus, when you have too much sugar in your bloodstream, your kidneys may be overworked by all of that excess glucose.

2) Coffee

Researchers have found that moderate coffee drinking (less than 300 mg per day) has no effect on kidney function in healthy adults. So feel free to enjoy a cup of coffee—just not all day, every day. Over time, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to dehydration, as well as other health issues like anxiety and insomnia.

3) Too much salt

Sodium in excess of 2,300 mg is considered high. If you consume more than 3,500 mg a day, your risk of developing kidney disease increases by 400 percent compared to someone who consumes less than 1,500 mg a day. You can reduce sodium intake by eating less processed and prepared foods and reading nutrition labels. Keep your salt intake below 2,000 mg a day to help protect your kidneys from further damage.

4) Steroids

Steroids have been shown to cause serious side effects, including hepatitis and liver cancer. If you’re overweight or obese, your chances of suffering from kidney disease are higher than those of people who maintain a healthy weight, even if you’re not taking steroids. So it’s important to try to keep your BMI within a healthy range by eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly.

5) Alcoholic drinks

Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can have severe consequences for your kidneys. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to lose more fluid through urination, which may result in dehydration. Dehydration in turn leads to higher blood pressure and strain on other organs—including your kidneys. The risk of developing kidney disease or high blood pressure increases as you drink more alcohol on a regular basis. Some of these health issues can be reversed by cutting back or stopping your drinking habits altogether.

6) Diuretics

Too much coffee, alcohol or soda? These and other diuretics can dehydrate your body and cause excessive urination. At worst, if your kidneys aren’t accustomed to diuretic use, you could end up with kidney damage. Aim for moderation when it comes to these beverages—one or two drinks per day for women and no more than three per day for men is a healthy limit.

7) Artificial sweeteners

It’s estimated that more than 100 million Americans consume artificially sweetened foods or beverages on a regular basis. The most common of these artificial sweeteners is aspartame, which has been around since 1980. Although studies suggest that aspartame can be helpful in preventing weight gain, researchers have also found links between artificial sweeteners and certain types of cancer. And there are other health concerns linked to aspartame, such as headaches and heart palpitations.

8) Medications

Sometimes, diseases and conditions can require a person to take medications that are detrimental to their kidneys. Talk with your doctor about what you’re taking, why you’re taking it, and whether or not it could harm your kidneys. Not only will he or she be able to tell you if what you’re ingesting is damaging your kidneys, but they can also assist in choosing an alternative medication that won’t do so.

9) Smoking cigarettes

There are a lot of ways that smoking can be damaging to your health, but one of the main things you should know is that it’s bad for your kidneys. Doctors say cigarette smoke can damage cells that filter toxins from your blood, making them less efficient at their job. Because of all these harmful effects, smokers are 30 percent more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than non-smokers and 60 percent more likely to end up on dialysis.

10) Compounds in car exhaust

Car fumes aren’t just damaging to your lungs. They may also lead to renal disease, or a loss of kidney function. A large Swedish study found that people who live in areas with higher air pollution have a 40 percent greater risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) compared to those who live in less polluted areas. The risks increased even more among people who already had high blood pressure and diabetes, which puts them at a greater risk for CKD in general.

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