Icon - Keeping your kidneys healthy

Keeping your kidneys healthy

Caring for your kidneys

Your kidneys play an important role in the daily workings of your body and help maintain your general health and wellbeing, so it makes good sense to take good care of them.

Some key recommendations are:

  • Get your blood pressure checked regularly and make sure it stays below the levels recommended by your doctor.
  • If you have diabetes make sure you monitor your blood glucose levels and stay within your targets.
  • Lead an active, healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight.

You can lose 90% of kidney function without any symptoms. Take the Kidney Risk Test and find out if you are at risk. 

Living healthily with early chronic kidney disease
Among the current resources available for people newly diagnosed with kidney disease is our practical and comprehensive 'My Kidneys My Health' handbook. Caring for your kidneys with early disesae is the same as for those who are at risk of kidney disease.

The 'My Kidneys My Health' handbook focuses on helping you to understand your kidney disease and provides information about how you can take control - you can make lifestyle changes to slow down any future kidney damage.

We also have some tips that you can make a regular part of your lifestyle. There is specific advice provided with each one.

2 - UnnamedThis handbook also lists many useful contacts and supports that can help you through your journey with kidney disease.

  • You can contact our Kidney Health Information Service on 1800 454 363 FREE to order your printed copy of ‘My Kidneys My Health’, ask other questions and sign up for our community newsletter.
  • You may also email your order request to kidney.helpline@kidney.org.au
  • You can simply download this handbook free here.

The My Kidneys My Health handbook was kindly supported by a grant from the John and Thirza Daley Charitable Trust who provided a Perpetual grant.

Resource Library

Stop smoking

If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, quit!

This is the simplest, most important lifestyle habit to change if you want to reduce your risk of kidney disease.

People who smoke are three times more likely to have reduced kidney function, and have a four to five times greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

If you’re a smoker, take the first step. Call the Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit www.quitnow.gov.au

Eat wisely

It is important to maintain a healthy weight for your height. The food you eat, and how active you are, help to control your weight.

Healthy eating tips include:

  • Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrain bread and rice.
  • At least once a week eat some lean meat such as chicken and fish.
  • Look at the food label and try to choose foods that have a low percentage of sugar and salt and saturated fats.
  • Limit take-away and fast food meals.

Exercise regularly

It’s recommended that you do at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week  – exercise leads to increased strength, stamina and energy.

The key is to start slowly and gradually increase the time and intensity of the exercise. You can break down any physical activity into three ten-minute bursts, which can be increased as your fitness improves.

To satisfy thirst, drink water

Drink plenty of fluids and listen to your thirst.

If you are thirsty, make water your first choice. Water has a huge list of health benefits and contains no kilojoules, is inexpensive and readily available.

Sugary soft drinks are packed full of ‘empty kilojoules', which means they contain a lot of sugar but have no nutritional value.

Some fruit juices are high in sugar and do not contain the fibre that the whole fruit has.

Limit alcohol intake

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure, increasing your risk of kidney disease.

To care for your kidneys it is recommended that alcohol intake is limited to less than two standard drinks per day.

Enjoy life

Good health and wellbeing means being in good shape in all parts of your life – physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.

Here are some tips for an enjoyable life:

  • Have less stress in your life.
  • Do the things you love.
  • Spend more time with people whose company you enjoy.
  • Balance the load.

And while you’re at it, remember to care for your kidneys.

Look out for these symptoms

Chronic kidney disease is called a ‘silent disease’ as there are often no warning signs. It is not uncommon for people to lose up to 90 per cent of their kidney function before getting any symptoms.

There are, however, some signs that may indicate reduced kidney function and it’s important to take note of them. These can include:

  • high blood pressure
  • changes in the amount and number of times urine is passed
  • changes in the appearance of your urine (for example, frothy or foaming urine)
  • blood in your urine
  • puffiness in your legs, ankles or around your eyes
  • pain in your kidney area
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • lack of concentration
  • itching
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea and vomiting
  • bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth
  • muscle cramps
  • pins and needles in your fingers or toes.

These symptoms are very general and may be caused by other illnesses. However, if they are related to kidney disease they may gradually worsen as kidney function declines.

If you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, or think you are at increased risk of kidney disease, ask your doctor for a Kidney Health Check.

Reduce the risk of urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections are very common, particularly in women, babies and the elderly. Around one in two women and one in 20 men will get a urinary tract infection in their lifetime.

Some people are at greater risk than others of developing urinary tract infections.

These include:

  • women
  • men with prostate problems
  • older people
  • people with urinary catheters
  • people with diabetes

Common symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:

  • a burning sensation when passing urine
  • wanting to urinate more often, if only to pass a few drops
  • cloudy, bloody or very smelly urine
  • pain above the pubic bone.

Signs of a urinary tract infection in children can also include:

  • low fever
  • irritability
  • new day or night wetting in a child who has been dry
  • feeding problems in babies.

If the infection moves to the kidneys, you may also have high fever, back pain and vomiting. If infection of the kidneys is suspected, it is important to see your doctor, because left untreated it can lead to kidney damage or even end stage kidney disease.

Here are some tips to reduce the risk of getting a urinary tract infection:

  • Drink lots of fluid, particularly water, to wash bacteria from the bladder and urinary tract.
  • Quickly treat any vaginal infection, such as thrush.
  • Avoid products that contain a spermicide, particularly if using a diaphragm.
  • Avoid constipation.

If you suspect you have a urinary tract infection, it’s important to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Treat kidney stones quickly

The kidneys filter the blood and remove the extra waste and water as urine. Many waste chemicals are in the urine. They can sometimes form crystals that clump together to make stones.

Kidney stones are hard, rock?like crystals of varying sizes and shapes. They can vary in size from as small as a grain of sand to as big as a golf ball.

Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract. About 8 per cent of Australians suffer from kidney stones at some time.

After having one kidney stone, about 30 to 50 per cent of people will get a second one within five years. After five years, the risk of getting another stone declines for most people.

Symptoms of kidney stones

Pain is typically the first sign of a kidney stone. Known as ‘renal colic’, the pain usually begins when a stone moves from where it has formed into the urinary tract.

This causes a gripping pain in the back, just below the ribs. It can spread around to the front of the body and sometimes towards the groin.

Other symptoms of a kidney stone include:

  • blood in your urine
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shivers, sweating and fever, with cloudy or bad smelling urine if there is also an infection
  • small uric acid stones, which look like gravel, in your urine
  • an urgent feeling of needing to urinate.

If you suspect you have kidney stones, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Preventing kidney stones

If you have had a kidney stone, further stones can be prevented by:

  • drinking plenty of water
  • limiting drinks that contain phosphoric acid (which may be used to flavour cola and beer)
  • avoiding urinary tract infections
  • taking special medicines prescribed by a doctor.

Being mindful of the risks and symptoms of kidney stones is an important part of caring for your kidneys.

Find out more about kidney stones here.

Links to fact sheets and other helpful information can be found here: Resource Library.


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