The 7 golden rules for healthy kidneys

TO protect our kidneys, the World Kidney Day website ( lists seven golden rules to live by:

1. Keep fit and active

Keeping fit and active will reduce the likelihood of developing risk factors for kidney disease, like high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and obesity.

While we don't have to go for intensive gym sessions, exercising for 30 minutes, three to four times a week can go a long way in keeping such lifestyle diseases at bay.

2. Keep regular control of your blood sugar level

According to the site, more than half of the people who have diabetes develop kidney damage.

Statistics from the National Renal Registry also show that since the year 2000, diabetes has been the leading cause for primary renal disease (kidney disease that starts in the kidney, not as a result of another disease).

People who have diabetes or a family history of diabetes, therefore, should keep tabs on their blood sugar and keep it under control.

This will help reduce the damage uncontrolled blood sugar levels can inflict on the kidneys.

3. Monitor your blood pressure

As high blood pressure may damage the kidneys if it is not controlled well, it is useful to monitor blood pressure regularly to make sure that it is within normal ranges.

However, if lifestyle measures are not enough to keep our blood pressure within the healthy range, doctors can help us get it under control with medications. For people with existing kidney disease, drugs that could lower their blood pressure and protect the kidneys at the same time are recommended.

4. Eat healthy and keep your weight in check

When the kidneys are already damaged, eating too much salt and protein can put extra stress on them. This is because the kidneys need to excrete the excess sodium (in salt) we take and the protein waste products we produce. It is difficult to determine how much salt we take a day, but we can limit our intake of processed food and refrain from adding salt to our food.

Nephrologists also advise their patients to limit their protein intake to 0.6-0.8g per kg body weight. That means if you weigh 60kg, you are only supposed to take about 36 to 48g of protein daily.

5. Do not smoke

Smoking can lead to changes in the blood vessels that slow the flow of blood to the kidneys. According to the website, when less blood reaches the kidneys, it impairs their ability to function properly. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50%.

6. Do not take over-the-counter pills on a regular basis

There are some drugs and herbs that are documented to be harmful to the kidneys. However, if our kidneys are relatively healthy, they might not pose significant danger, unless they are used long-term. Some medications, like some painkillers and certain types of antibiotics, can damage the kidney, says Datuk Dr Zaki Morad Mohd Zaher.

"So, someone who has mild kidney disease has to be very careful when he takes painkillers. For instance, if he must take painkillers that may harm the kidney, he has to take it only for a short duration."


Type of drug/substanceExamples of drug/substanceUsage
ImmunosuppressantsCyclosporine, tacrolimusTo suppress the immune system, mainly in organ transplats
AntifungalsAmphotericin BTo treat serious or potentially life-threatening fungal infections
Radiocontrast agentsIodine or barium compoundsInjected into the body to make certain parts of the body visible to scanning devices such as CT-scanners or special X-ray processes like angiography
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)Aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenacTo reduce inflammation, fever and pain
AntibioticsPenicillinsTo treat infections
Aristolochic acid found in a Chinese plant (Aristochia fangchi)Once found in slimming products in Belgium and still found in some herbal medicines in Europe, China, Taiwan and JapanAs Aristochia fangchi remeble another plant - Stephania tetran da - that is used for weight loss and pain relief, its presence in herbal preparations may be unintentional

7. Check your kidney function if you have one or more of the 'high risk' factors

Most people will start going for annual medical checkups by the time they hit 40, but it is also a good practice to have annual medical checkups once one reaches adulthood, says Dr Zaki.

People who are obese, have diabetes or hypertension, or have a family history of these diseases, are advised to start keeping tabs on their health regularly (with medical checkups and laboratory tests, not just the weighing scale) earlier in their lives.