By: Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN, PatientsLikeMe Contributor
In honor of American Heart Month, it’s important to discuss the connection between heart health and chronic kidney disease. When managing CKD/chronic kidney disease, medications and lifestyle, and diet changes can help keep the kidneys protected. Another important topic to keep in mind is heart health. Heart health is closely connected to our kidney health. In order to keep our kidneys as healthy as possible, we also want to keep our hearts as healthy as possible!
What does the heart do?
Our heart has an important job that without it, we wouldn’t be able to live! In a nutshell, the heart is responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood through our body. The heart also helps to manage our blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the main causes of chronic kidney disease. That is why taking measures towards good heart health is so important!
How are the heart and kidneys connected?
When the heart pumps blood through our body, the kidneys are responsible for cleaning that blood. The kidneys help to remove waste products and toxins that have built up in the blood. If these waste products and toxins are not removed from the blood, they can build up and become harmful for us. When you have CKD, your kidneys are not working at 100%, so it can be more likely for your blood to have more toxins and waste products in it.
Studies have shown that chronic kidney disease makes you more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, if you have cardiovascular disease, you are more likely to develop kidney disease. But how can you protect your heart when you have CKD?
What can we do to keep our hearts healthy?
- Manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels – It can be important to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels closely to assess your overall heart health. If you aren’t sure how to check your blood pressure or what it means, learn more here: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings. You can also ask your doctor to order laboratory tests for you so that you can monitor your lipid profile. This includes your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Following a heart-healthy diet and getting in physical activity can also help to further manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels too.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet – Following a low-sodium diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can help to protect both your heart and kidneys! Choose heart-healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and salmon. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables & whole grains so that you are getting enough fiber each day. Fiber is so important for heart health and kidney health and helps control your cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and bowel movements better.
- Get in physical activity – Physical activity has been shown to help lower blood pressure, strengthen your bones and muscles, keep your brain healthy, manage diabetes, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The general recommendation for physical activity and CKD is 150 minutes per week of physical activity. This can include whatever form of movement fits your lifestyle best. Dancing, jogging, walking, swimming, playing tennis, the possibilities are endless!
Heart healthy swaps for CKD
- Instead of this using butter when cooking ➡️ try using olive oil
- Instead of eating red meat a few times per week ➡️ try alternating with more plant-based options like tofu and beans
- Instead of using salt to flavor your food ➡️ try using low-sodium or no salt added seasonings, herbs, and spices to add flavor
- Instead of sitting throughout the work day ➡️ try getting up every hour to get in a few minutes of movement
- Instead of waiting to get your blood pressure checked at your next doctor’s visit ➡️ try getting a home blood pressure monitor and checking your blood pressure at home
Overall, keeping your heart healthy with CKD is so important! By getting in physical activity, eating a more heart-healthy diet, and managing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you can help to protect your kidneys too. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider and dietitian to make sure you are making the right choices for your CKD.
If you are looking for more support with managing your kidney health, you are not alone! Check out patientslikeme.com/forum/ckd/topics to join our discussion. You can share what you are going through, ask for advice, and plan a path forward from people who understand.