Five habits that can harm your kidneys

PHOTO: The Straits Times

By detoxing blood, producing essential hormones and saving water in our body, kidneys have a bearing on our health. But common habits can harm their function.

Here are the five most important habits to avoid if you want healthy kidneys, as compiled by Reader´s Digest.


Packaged food contains a lot of sodium which affects the heart and can cause kidney problems. By consuming too much salt the organs have to work more to excrete the excess salt.

When peeing our body flushes the sodium out as well as some calcium. Losing too much calcium could put us at greater risk for kidney stones, according to James Simon, MD, nephrologist with Cleveland Clinic.

"People look at carbs and fat and calories, but they don´t pay attention to sodium," he says.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a maximum amount of 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. The average American for example consumes more than 3,400 mg.


Kidneys can be described as a big set of blood vessels with urine drains. "If you have high blood pressure in your big blood vessels, you have high blood pressure in your smaller blood vessels," Dr. Simon explained.

By letting high blood pressure go unchecked, blood vessels could get damaged and harm the kidneys.


Smoking kills, they say. But lung cancer is not the only risk of cigarettes. Smoking can harm the whole body by increasing blood pressure, lowering the circulation and constricting blood vessels in the kidneys.

"It´s another reason smoking is just bad on the body," Dr. Simon says.

A study from 2012 revealed that not smoking for at least 16 years could cut the risk of renal cell carcinoma by 40 per cent, which is the most common form of kidney cancer in adults.


Many diet plans recommend drinking eight glasses of water every day. According to Dr. Simon four to six cups should be enough, but only drinking one or two will challenge our kidneys. Especially when exercising a lot or being outside on a hot day it is necessary to drink enough water. When our body does not have enough water to flush out our system to keep sodium levels in check, keeping its blood pressure up will become more difficult.

But not only can a dehydrated body be dangerous, drinking too much water stresses our kidneys as well. Dr. Simon explained that the kidney is very sensitive to blood flow, adding that "It won´t like it if you are so dehydrated that your blood pressure drops and the blood flow to your kidneys drops."


Painkillers can reduce fever and pain but also affect our organs. NSAIDs, which are anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen and aspirin, diminish the blood flow to the kidney. Being directly toxic to the organ they can harm kidney function and cause scarring.

In the long run painkillers can lead to chronic kidney disease or kidney failure. Especially people already with kidney damage should avoid NSAIDs altogether.

"The people at risk are those who are taking them on a daily basis for long periods of time," Dr. Simon said.