Introduction: 7 Steps to Living Healthier With Kidney Disease

About: Most people know me as "the cookie lady" :) , though I've been drawing, painting, sewing, fusing glass, and making other creative things for as long as I can remember. My two dogs and two cats think…

Fact: more than 26,000,000 Americans have Kidney Disease- that's 1 in 9 people in the US

Taking steps to live a healthier life with kidney disease can help to extend your life, decrease your symptoms, and improve your overall well-being. It takes research, discipline, and the determination to prioritize a healthy lifestyle.
The steps described in this Instructable are based on the steps that my husband and I have incorporated into his daily life after being diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease more than 23 years ago in 1987. (I must add a disclaimer that you and your physician are responsible for your health, and by writing these tips I assume no liabilities for your health.)

Step 1: Consult With and Assess Your Physician

You need a physician who will help to educate you on the basic science of your illness, your particular health challenges and disease(s), the symptoms, the prescriptions you are taking to manage your disease(s), and their potential side effects. Your physician needs to be able to explain to you what actions you take will have a positive impact on your health, and what will have a negative impact (diet, prescriptions, lifestyle, and exercise). Your physician should be your partner in optimizing your health, and if he/or she isn’t, it may be time for a change. Your insurance company may be a resource, and websites such as offer tips for choosing doctors, hospitals, and healthcare provider searches.

Step 2: Acquire Knowlege

Research your disease, prescriptions and their side-effects, and how diet and exercise impact your health. Your physician, the Internet, and your local library are great resources for knowledge that will help you to identify your personal action plan. A few helpful resources for information on kidney disease, diet, recipes, and lifestyle suggestions are:
The Corinne T Netzer Encyclopedia of Food Values

Step 3: Document Your Status

You need to document your current health and lifestyle in a format that will enable you to track your progress, identify what is and isn’t working for you, and communicate effectively with your healthcare provider. Charts are an effective way of tracking and managing the following:

Water retention: There are multiple ways of observing your water retention levels: .

• Weight:
An electronic scale with a weight/body-fat reading is helpful. A sudden increase in weight/corresponding with a decrease in body-fat is a reliable indicator that your water retention has increased.

Finger Press: Press your fingers with medium pressure against the skin on your ankles or thighs. You can gauge the amount of water you are retaining by the fingerprint indentations left behind.

• Blood pressure: Monitor your blood pressure. In-home blood pressure monitors are widely available and reliable. As your water retention increases, your blood pressure may rise accordingly. Blood pressure monitors also are useful for tracking your resting pulse rate, which can be useful in identifying other health issues such as a high potassium level.

Kidney Function: Create a chart that will enable you to track your lab results. Tracking Potassium, uric acid, hemoglobin, and albumin levels among other things will help you to quickly assess whether you are on the right track with prescriptions and diet, and take actions immediately.

Diet: Write down your daily food intake. This will help you to identify the foods that are helping/or harming your health and make the necessary adjustments.

Exercise: write down your daily exercise routine. This will help you to track your exercise routine’s impact on your weight, water retention, blood pressure, etc.

You may have other health issues that should be monitored, especially if you are anemic, diabetic, or have other health challenges that would benefit from closer monitoring. Your charts should be tailored to optimize your specific requirements.

Step 4: Develop and Implement Your Strategy

Now that you’ve partnered with a physician, acquired knowledge of the basic science of your disease, and assessed your current health status, you’re ready to prepare yourself to make the changes that will help you to live a healthier life with Kidney Disease.

a. Review your statistics, and identify the areas that need to be improved. Refer to the charts you just made for kidney function, weight, blood pressure, resting pulse rate, diet, and exercise.

b. Identify the actions you need to take to improve your statistics.
Your physician may help with referrals to a nutritionist or specialist. You could research local gym facilities to find a trainer, hot tub, sauna, or local support groups to join.

c. Implement your strategy:
There are three equally important aspects to implementing your strategy:

Mental: You want to establish a positive reinforcement cycle that will help you to feel good about your day and your choices. Visualize all of the healthy changes that you are making as nourishing, sustaining, healing, and cleansing. Your ability to use your mind to reinforce positive behaviors will help you to stay on course. Conversely, visualize actions that are harmful to your health as poisonous, lethal, negative, etc. Knowing that you’re doing your best to optimize your health has a tremendous positive impact on your outlook on life.

Physical: Use your charts, statistics and research to modify your daily actions with regard to doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, diet, exercise and lifestyle. As you observe that your statistics are outside the normal parameters, you can immediately take steps to improve your readings or seek help from your healthcare professionals.

Prioritize: What excuses have you made for not making the changes necessary for you to live a healthier life? Too busy, or don’t know what to do? It takes time, work, and effort for each of us to live the healthiest life we can. We’re worth it. No excuses.

Step 5: What You Eat DIRECTLY Affects Your Health

• Review your diet chart, and your research. Consult a nutritionist if helpful.

• Research the foods that you regularly eat for their nutritional content. Identify the foods that you eat that are having a negative impact on your health.

• Consider dietary changes as “adjustments” necessary to optimize your health. Your dietary needs will fluctuate regularly depending on your blood-work, symptoms and over-all health.

• Think of food as nourishment rather than entertainment.

• Listen to your body. Symptoms generally have causes that can be identified, and are impacted by what we eat. Purine rich foods may be the reason for your gout symptoms, high carbohydrate foods the reason for your high blood sugar levels, etc. Medication alone may help with symptoms, but you might have a healthier result by eliminating the root cause of your problems with changes in diet.

• Look up recipes on the kidney websites that incorporate the foods that you can eat without limits and incorporate them into your weekly menus.

• Create sample menus for a meal, day, or week’s worth of food, and check to make sure that the values for calories, sodium, protein, potassium, phosphorous or other nutritional values to meet your guidelines. Your health will benefit from optimizing your diet in the following categories:

o Potassium: Are your potassium readings too high? Many people with kidney disease have difficulty with their potassium levels due to their reduced kidney function and the medications they may be taking. Reduce or eliminate high potassium foods in your diet such as tomato products, avocados, artichokes, apricots, white beans, beet greens, bananas, chocolate and salt substitutes containing potassium chloride

o Protein: Your kidneys have to work harder to process protein. Calculate your optimal protein needs, which will vary depending on your stage of kidney disease, and manage your diet to live within those guidelines. You may benefit from a “mostly vegetarian” diet with a small serving of lean fish. Try incorporating a little tofu in your diet, but avoid or eliminate processed meats, fatty or fried meats, and red meat. Calwood nutritionals manufactures a line of nutritional supplements consisting of amino acids that may be beneficial in helping to manage proper nutrition in a protein restricted diet.

o Sodium: Foods high in sodium contribute to water retention problems, which may increase your blood pressure, which in turn may require additional medication. Try adding flavor to your meals with natural spices, or lemon juice.

o Phosphorous: Know your phosphorous levels. You may need to manage or limit your intake of high phosphorous foods such as wheat products, yogurt, and sunflower seeds.

Step 6: Get Moving

For people with kidney disease, physical activity can help rid the body of toxins, reduce the risk and complications of diabetes, and improve blood circulation. Please consult your physician for the best activities for your health.

o Exercise: Consult a professional, or hire a trainer at a local gym if helpful. Many health clubs not only offer trainers for exercise programs, but may also have nutritionists to help identify your dietary needs. Yoga has positive health benefits including improving your flexibility and reducing stress.

o Sweat: The process of sweating helps to reduce the workload on your kidneys by eliminating waste, and reducing water retention. A dry sauna and/or a hot tub can be incredibly helpful in achieving these results, especially since it is challenging for many people with kidney disease to exercise to the point required for sweating. Incorporating the sauna or hot tub/ or both into your daily routine may help you to keep your water retention under control, increase your circulation, and help to reduce the dosage of diuretics that you require.


Step 7: Little Steps Count

New research, studies, and recommendations are available on a daily basis for living a happier, healthier life. Incorporating little steps and changes such as adopting a loving pet, taking a yoga class, drinking filtered water, limiting caffeine and alcohol, eating local fresh vegetables, add natural spices such as curry, red pepper, turmeric to your foods rather than salt, adding watermelon to help reduce inflammation, cherries to help with gout symptoms, joining a church, and getting 8 hours of sleep may all add up to help you to live a healthier, happier life with kidney disease.

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