Step into the New Year with a proactive approach to kidney health! As we usher in 2024, it's the perfect time to prioritize our well-being. Here are five resolutions to help keep your kidneys in top shape.
1. Schedule your yearly checkup
When was the last time you got a healthcare checkup? If it was over a year ago, it's time to call up your healthcare provider and get scheduled. Why? Regular checkups help you detect potential health problems!
Many diseases, including kidney disease, don't show symptoms in the early phases. This makes regular screenings crucial for timely diagnosis.
Not all checkups include kidney function tests. Ask your healthcare professional for blood and urine tests to determine kidney health. Learn more about kidney tests.
2. Watch your weight
Being overweight can put you at risk of many conditions, including kidney disease. For Wilson Du, a transplant patient, weight played a role in the development of kidney failure. It also kept him from the transplant waitlist but Wilson overcame it. Now he inspires others to do the same.
"There was one moment when I contemplated ending dialysis. I needed to make a choice right then–was I going to give up or fight? I chose life. I got out of my wheelchair and walked ten feet. It was painful but I felt empowered to improve my health. Nothing was impossible,” said Wilson. “With work, I was able to get on the kidney transplant waitlist. I wasn't an athlete before I started training. I was very unhealthy. If I can go from being obese to living a healthy lifestyle, so can you. Take it slow and don't give up."
There are many ways to safely lose weight. These tips can help you start, but talk to your doctor before making any big changes.
Weight management tips:
Choose whole foods: Whole foods are nutrient-dense and can fill you up for longer periods.
Incorporate regular exercise: Make physical activity a consistent part of your routine. Remember, exercise isn’t a punishment. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits. Work with a healthcare practitioner to create a safe, achievable exercise routine.
Get enough sleep: Research found a connection between sleep and how our bodies use food for energy. Not getting enough sleep can also mess with the hormones that tell us when we're hungry.
3. Avoid unnecessary use of pain relievers
Your home's medicine cabinet likely contains pain medications called analgesics. These over-the-counter medications can help with headaches, fevers, and aches. But did you know that frequent use or high doses of these medicines can hurt the kidneys–even healthy ones.
Examples of over-the-counter analgesics include:
Prevent kidney issues from analgesics by:
Not using them excessively
Avoiding mixtures of painkillers in one pill
Not drinking alcohol with analgesics
Consulting your doctor
Following warning labels and instructions
Many analgesics should be avoided if you have decreased kidney function. Talk to a healthcare professional to determine what medications are right for you.
4. Manage your mental health
Taking care of your mental well-being is just as important as your physical health. Neglecting it can lead to chronic issues like depression and heart disease.1Recognizing the signs is the first step.
Keep an eye out for:
Difficulty engaging in activities you once enjoyed
Feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness, or hopelessness
Withdrawing from friends and family
Struggling with these symptoms? Help is available. Start the new year by talking with a healthcare professional about your options. They may suggest stress-coping techniques like meditation, talk therapy, or medication.
"Kidney failure was very traumatic. I'm still working through it. Attending therapy, exercising, and meditating helps me," said Jason, a kidney transplant recipient. "I want to make sure that I'm spending time being in the moment with my family and not taking things for granted. These are things that I would have never done prior but now it's like those moments are what make me happy."
If you have kidney disease, are on dialysis, or have a transplant, NKF Peers may help. This program connects you with a trained mentor through the phone or in-app chats. Talking to someone who has been through similar experiences makes all the difference.
5. Find your community
You may be asking–how does finding a community help keep my kidneys healthy? According to the CDC2, an increased sense of belonging can lead to a longer, healthier life! A community can also help you cope during difficult times.
If finding a community sounds daunting, start small. Check out your local library, theater, or volunteer organizations. Look for online forums, book or hobby clubs, or live gaming groups. You could even come to an NKF event!
NKF is full of amazing people working towards the same goals. We’re saving lives, improving the patient experience, and working to fix inequities in kidney care. You can be a part of that whether you do or don't have kidney disease! Everyone is welcome to volunteer, advocate, or attend our events.
How to get involved with NKF:
Kidney Walk: When you join a Kidney Walk, you can connect with others touched by this condition.
Golf: Join thousands of other golfers across the country golfing for a good cause!
Social Events: NKF offers many local culinary events, galas, and honors ceremonies nationwide.
Facebook Transplant Group: This is an open space for anyone in the United States who is interested in getting a transplant, thinking of donating, or looking to share their experiences.
Facebook Advocacy Group: Anyone in the United States interested in advocating for kidney health legislation, both locally and nationally is welcome here.
La National Kidney Foundation en español: ¿Tiene preguntas sobre la salud renal? ¿Quiere compartir su historia como paciente renal? ¡La National Kidney Foundation en español es el lugar correcto! Únase y conéctese con personas como usted.
Looking for more support? Check out NKF's Online Communities to connect with others who have kidney disease experience.