bearded man sitting in bed taking his blood pressure

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March is National Kidney Month, a time when communities across the country raise awareness about kidney disease, a serious condition that can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and death. This year’s focus is high blood pressure, one of the most common causes of chronic kidney disease. 

“High blood pressure can damage blood vessels of the kidneys leading to a progressive decline in kidney function,” said Dr. Dustin Tedesco, nephrologist with Norman Regional Nephrology Associates. “This process may then cause further elevations in blood pressure, thus creating a dangerous cycle.”

Protecting Your Kidneys

The good news is that you can help protect your kidneys by managing high blood pressure with these healthy lifestyle habits.

  1. Take medications as prescribed.  Your doctor may prescribe blood pressure-lowering medications that are effective in slowing the development of kidney disease.
  2. Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight can improve blood pressure readings.
  3. Select healthier foods and drinks.  Focus on fruits and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, and low-fat milk. Cook with a mix of spices instead of salt. Eat foods without gravy or added fats. Read food labels. Choose foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars. Limit your alcohol intake. Finally, try keeping a written record of what you eat for a week. It can help you see when you tend to overeat or eat foods high in fat or calories.
  4. Quit smoking. Smoking can affect medicines used to treat high blood pressure. It also slows the blood flow to kidneys and other organs and can make kidney disease worse. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, take steps to quit. Ask for help so you don’t have to do it alone. You can start by calling 1-800-QUITNOW. Then, talk to your doctor. Those who combine prescription medication with counseling double their chances of quitting smoking.
  5. Get enough sleep. Sleep is involved in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels. Chronic sleep deficiency raises your risk of kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that control hunger and fullness. When you don't get enough sleep, you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested. Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes. So make it a priority to get at least seven hours of sleep every night.
  6. Manage stress. Stress is part of life.You can’t avoid it, but learning to handle stress in healthy ways will improve your life both mentally and physically. The next time you feel stressed, try taking several deep breaths, a relaxing bath, calling a friend or listening to your favorite music. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga and tai chi are also great methods for reducing stress.
  7. Make physical activity part of your daily routine. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Aerobic activities such as walking fast, jogging, biking or swimming make your heart beat faster. Try to be active for at least 10 minutes at a time without breaks. You can count each 10-minute segment of activity toward your physical activity goal. You’ll also want to add strengthening activities twice a week to build bone and muscle strength and improve your balance.

Talk to Your Family Doctor

Your primary care provider is going to be your best partner in the fight against kidney disease. He or she can help you with a diet and exercise plan as well as prescribe blood pressure lowering medications if needed. We have 15 primary care clinics throughout central Oklahoma. Call 405-515-5000 to find a physician who’s right for you.