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How to Live Well with Chronic Kidney Disease

While there is no cure for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), there are many things you can do to keep your kidneys and your body healthy. You are in control of your body and can make a difference.


  • You can protect your kidneys by controlling your blood sugar. If you have diabetes:
  • Keep your blood sugars and hemoglobin A1C or fructosamine within the goal set by your doctors.
  • Check your blood sugars regularly and take your medicines as prescribed.
  • Follow a diabetes-approved eating plan.
  • Keep your blood pressure below 130/80 unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • Achieve or stay at a healthy weight.
  • If you are overweight, start a program to lose weight.

High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (BP) damages the kidneys, and kidney disease causes high blood pressure. It is a vicious circle. Talk with your doctor about your blood pressure goal.

  • Buy a home BP monitor: you can get a good one for $50. Bring it to the doctor to compare the measurements. Check your BP regularly and write it down to bring to appointments.
  • Take your BP medicine as prescribed. Your BP may need more than one drug, and you may need more medicine if your kidney function changes.
  • Unless you are very skinny, lose weight. Losing weight often decreases the need for blood pressure medicines.

Limit Salt Intake
Salt raises blood pressure, and can make you thirsty and cause swelling. High salt diets raise the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure and death. Don’t use a salt shaker at the table or in the kitchen. Beware of the salt in processed foods. Use our guide for decreasing salt intake to help.

Good Nutrition and Exercise
Your kidneys need a healthy place to work.

  • Low sodium and low cholesterol diets keep your whole body working better.
  • Your kidney diet may change over time.
  • You may need to limit your protein intake, as it creates waste that is hard to filter through your kidneys.
  • There are other foods that you may need to decrease or avoid as kidney function changes.
  • A dietitian will help you learn what you need to know to eat right.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Smoking damages your kidneys and also:

  • causes cancer
  • raises your blood pressure
  • increases your risk of heart attack or stroke
  • hardens your arteries
  • makes kidney transplant and surgery for dialysis difficult or unsuccessful

If you smoke, there are programs to help you quit.

If you take your medicines as prescribed, you are less likely to be hospitalized and less likely to harm your kidneys. Some medicines can actually harm your kidneys.

Bring ALL the medicines you take at home to every CKD appointment. This should include over-the-counter, herbal and dietary supplements, ointments, creams, drops, inhalers, and pills. Inbetween visits, let your nephrologist and CKD Educator know:

  • If you start or stop any medications.
  • If any doctor or hospital changes a dose, or starts or stops a medication.
  • If you cannot afford your medications or are unable to pick them up.
  • If your medications cause side effects

People with CKD should avoid aspirin and NSAIDS (ibuprofen, Advil™, Aleve™, etc): as they can harm your kidneys. Acetaminophen (Tylenol™) is a better choice for pain relief when you have kidney disease.

Also avoid decongestants, like Sudafed™, as they can raise your blood pressure.

Always talk to a nurse, physician or pharmacist before buying over-the-counter medicines, especially cold medicines and pain relievers. Make sure they know you have kidney disease.

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