Keeping a healthy weight pre- and post-transplant

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two women exercising

Did you know that keeping a healthy weight after a kidney transplant is just as important as keeping a healthy weight before transplant? Dr. Brent Miller, the Clinical Chief of Nephrology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, joined us for a webinar to talk about why people tend to gain weight after transplant surgery and what steps you can take to keep a healthy weight.

While there is no exact weight requirement needed to get a transplant, you need to make sure you are fit enough for the surgery. Even though getting a new kidney is life-changing, the journey does not end there! It is important to protect your new kidney by continuing to eat healthy, exercise and manage your weight. 
Being overweight can bring back — or worsen — other health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, so be sure to eat healthy and stay active.

After a kidney transplant, you will have less food limitations and will not need to stick to a kidney-friendly eating plan anymore. You will also need to take immunosuppressants, a type of medicine that stops your body from rejecting your new kidney. This medicine can cause you to gain weight. These are some of the reasons why transplant patients gain an average of 20+ pounds after their transplant. Dr. Miller stressed an important saying to live by: "Eat Less, Move More." This is a central part of keeping a healthy weight after transplant. Transplant patients do not have to run for miles or do high-intensity training every day to stay healthy. Dr. Miller recommends taking 4,000 – 7,000 steps a day in order to stay active and avoid the extra pounds.

Here are some more takeaways from Dr. Miller:

  • Physically active transplant patients do better no matter their size, both pre- and post-transplant
  • Eating a kidney-friendly eating plan after your transplant will not prevent weight gain
  • About 1 in 3 people who were at an average weight before their transplant will become obese within 1 year
  • Over 20% of people who did not have diabetes before their kidney transplant will get diabetes within 5 years after their transplant

Everyone has a different way of staying active and eating healthy. Talk to your doctor and dietitian to come up with a nutrition and lifestyle plan tailored for you.

If you or a loved one are thinking about kidney transplant, take time to view this webinar and learn more about how to keep a healthy weight.

For more information on eating healthy for every stage of kidney disease, including pre- and post-transplant, visit AKF's Kidney Kitchen.


Alexis Osei

Alexis Osei is a Patient Services Associate at the American Kidney Fund.