Kidney Health Tips

Making healthy choices helps reduce the risk of kidney disease. Here are some ways you can promote kidney health and increase overall health.

Tip: Eat a diet low in salt and fat

  • Eating healthy can help prevent or control diabeteshigh 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 

Tip: 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 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

Tip: Limit fat

  • Choose lean meats or fish

  • Remove the skin and trim the fat off your meats before cooking

  • Bake, grill or broil your foods instead of frying them

  • Shop for fat-free and low-fat dairy products, salad dressings and mayonnaise

  • Try olive oil or canola oil instead of vegetable oil

  • Choose egg whites or egg substitute rather than whole eggs

  • Watch portion control; choosing healthy foods is a great start, but eating too much healthy food can also be a problem; be sure to monitor how much you eat to avoid unnecessary calories

Tip: Be physically active

  • Exercise can help you stay healthy; to get the most benefit, exercise for at least 30 minutes, five 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

Tip: 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 even just a few pounds can make a big difference in overall health

Tip: 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

  • Your triglycerides also are  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

  • See chart below as a guide for average cholesterol levels; be sure to talk to your doctor about what is the most healthy range for you based on your medical history and general health

Average Cholesterol Levels

Total Cholesterol: Less than 200

HDL (“good” cholesterol): More than 40

LDL (“bad” cholesterol): Less than 100  


Tip: 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, including over-the-counter medicines and vitamins, to help make sure that you are not taking anything that may harm your kidneys

Tip: 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

Tip: Avoid tobacco

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco 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; it can also help slow the disease down if you already have it