American Kidney Fund
Sign Up or Sign In


Blog  |  En Español  |  Partners |  Contact Us | HelpLine |  AKF Store
 text size Text Size OneText Size TwoText Size Three

Download Health Brochures and Fact Sheets


Health questions? Call AKF toll-free. Se habla Español. Details»

Bookmark and Share

Tips for Healthy Living

Eat a diet low in salt and fat
Be physically active
Keep a healthy weight
Control your cholesterol
Take medicines as directed
Limit alcohol
Avoid tobacco

Eat a diet low in salt and fat

Eating healthy can help prevent or control diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.  A healthy diet has a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, lean meats and beans.  Even small changes like limiting salt (sodium) and fat, can make a big difference in your health.

Limit salt

  • Do not add salt to your food when cooking or eating.  Try cooking with fresh herbs, lemon juice or other spices.
  • Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.  If you do use canned vegetables, rinse them before eating or cooking with them to remove extra salt.
  • Shop for items that say “reduced-sodium” or “low-sodium.”
  • Avoid processed foods like frozen dinners and lunch meats.
  • Limit fast food and salty snacks, like chips, pretzels and salted nuts.

Limit fat

  • Choose lean meats or fish.  Remove the skin and trim the fat off your meats before you cook them.
  • Bake, grill or broil your foods instead of frying them.
  • Shop for fat-free and low-fat dairy products, salad dressing and mayonnaise.
  • Try olive oil or canola oil instead of vegetable oil.
  • Choose egg whites or egg substitute rather than whole eggs.

Choosing healthy foods is a great start, but eating too much of healthy foods can also be a problem.  The other part of a healthy diet is portion control (watching how much you eat).  To help control your portions, you might:

  • Eat slowly and stop eating when you are not hungry anymore.  It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full.
  • Check nutrition facts to learn the true serving size of a food.  For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda is really two and a half servings.
  • Do not eat directly from the bag or box.  Take out one serving and put the box or bag away.
  • Avoid eating when watching TV or driving.
  • Be mindful of your portions even when you do not have a measuring cup, spoon or scale.

Get more information about kidney friendly diets here.

Be physically active

Exercise can help you stay healthy.  To get the most benefit, exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days of the week.  If that seems like too much, start out slow and work your way up.  Look for fun activities that you enjoy.  Try walking with a friend, dancing, swimming or playing a sport.  Adding just a little more activity to your routine can help.  Exercise can also help relieve stress, another common cause of high blood pressure.

Keep a healthy weight

Keeping a healthy weight can help you manage your blood sugar, control your blood pressure, and lower your risk for kidney disease.  Being overweight puts you more at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.  Talk to your doctor about how much you should weigh.  If you are overweight, losing just a few pounds can make a big difference.

Control your cholesterol

Having high cholesterol, especially if you have diabetes, puts you more at risk for kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.  It can also cause diabetic kidney disease to get worse faster.

For most people, normal cholesterol levels are:

  • Total Cholesterol: Less than 200
  • HDL (“good” cholesterol): More than 40
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol): Less than 100

Your triglycerides are also important.  People with high triglycerides are more at risk for kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.  For most people, a healthy triglyceride level is less than 150.

If your total cholesterol, LDL or triglycerides are high, or if your HDL is low, talk to your doctor.  Your doctor may suggest exercise, diet changes or medicines to help you get to a healthy cholesterol level.

Take medicines as directed

To help protect your kidneys, take medicines as directed. 

Some medicines may help you manage conditions that can damage your kidneys, like diabetes or high blood pressure.  Ask your doctor how to take any medicines he or she prescribes.  Make sure to take the medicines just how your doctor tells you.  This may mean taking some medicines, like blood pressure medicines, even when you feel fine.
 
Other medicines can harm your kidneys if you take them too much.  For example, even over-the-counter pain medicines can damage your kidneys over time.  Follow the label directions for any medicines you take.  Share with your doctor a list of all of your medicines (even over-the-counter medicines and vitamins) to help make sure that you are not taking anything that may harm your kidneys.

Limit alcohol

Drinking alcohol in large amounts can cause your blood pressure to rise.  Limiting how much alcohol you drink can help you keep a healthy blood pressure.  Have no more than two drinks per day if you’re a man and no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman.

Avoid tobacco

Using tobacco (smoking or chewing) puts you more at risk for high blood pressure, kidney disease and many other health problems.  If you already have kidney disease, using tobacco can make it get worse faster.

If you use tobacco, quitting can help lower your chances of getting kidney disease or help slow the disease down if you already have it.

Learn More on How to Live Healthy 

Manage Diabetes
Keep a Healthy Blood Pressure
Work with Your Doctor

GMS Login
Give Online
Register for the Virtual Walk
Stay Connected

Putting Your Contributions to Work

Wellsphere Health Impact AwardAIP Rated A+ CharityCharity Navigator Better Business Bureau LogoNational Health Council Standards of Excellence
Consumers Digest Top Charity
Consumers Digest
4-Star Charity (12th consecutive year)
Charity Navigator

Stay Connected With the American Kidney Fund:

American Kidney Fund on Facebook   American Kidney Fund on Twitter   American Kidney Fund on YouTube