Your kidneys are essential organs that filter your blood, removing excess nutrients and waste products from the body. But sometimes, things can go wrong, and kidneys can fail, meaning that people have to go on lifelong dialysis or require kidney transplants.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people suffer from kidney failure, according to expert Jim Plante, so what can you do to prevent your kidneys from suffering the same fate?
Keep your cholesterol down
High cholesterol levels are often associated with heart disease, the number one killer in many Western countries. But did you know that cholesterol levels can also affect the kidneys?
The kidneys rely on a steady supply of blood to function correctly. The organs are surrounded by dozens of tiny blood vessels supplying them with nutrients. High cholesterol levels can leads to plaque build-ups in these blood vessels, causing damage to the surrounding tissue, and potentially reducing the ability of the organ to function. Not good.
The average person has cholesterol levels somewhere between 200 and 220 mg/dL. Your doctor might tell you that this is “normal,” but remember, that’s only normal in the context of a Western population – many people will still go on to develop problems with their cardiovascular systems even with average cholesterol levels. To be kidney-safe, total cholesterol should be kept below 150 mg/dL, something that is easily achievable for most people on a plant-based diet.
Keep blood pressure in check
Chronically high blood pressure is something that builds over time. Nobody goes from normal to elevated blood pressure in a week, or even over the space of months. It’s something that happens over the course of many years, usually in response to the environment.
High blood pressure can damage kidneys and the surrounding tissue. Keeping blood pressure low is essential. You can keep blood pressure low by eating foods that help arteries dilate, such as rocket, beetroot, and kale. You can also reduce blood pressure over the long term by avoiding added salt which is often high in processed and junk foods, but you should also stop adding it to your own cooking. Many foods have salt present naturally and plenty to suit our needs – there’s no need to add extra. Switch salt for a different seasoning or spice instead.
Smoking is, according to some researchers, the leading “modifiable cause” of kidney disease. By modifiable, researchers mean “something that people can change.” Smoking causes damage to the blood vessels near the kidneys, leading to progressive stiffening and damage. If you want to protect your kidneys over the long term, stop smoking today.
Related – Smoking is no longer cool: the benefits of quitting cigarettes
Avoiding animal protein
One of the functions on your kidneys is to filter our excess protein in your blood and pass it into the urine. It’s a system our bodies evolved eons ago to make sure that we didn’t get too much of this nutrient.
Animal protein is a special kind of protein relative to plant protein, in that it seems to require more effort by the kidneys to process. Hyperfiltration, as it’s known, after eating meat or dairy can damage kidneys over the long term. Get protein from beans instead.
Related – Is it hard being a vegan?