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Lifestyle Changes for Kidney Disease

In addition to medication, your NYU Langone doctor may recommend lifestyle changes that can slow the progression of kidney disease. These may include managing underlying conditions, such as diabetes, changing your diet, and exercising. These habits can also help to prevent kidney disease.

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Control Diabetes

Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure, in which the kidneys no longer function. You can help reduce the risk of kidney failure by controlling diabetes.

If you have diabetes, your NYU Langone doctor may prescribe medication to control blood sugar and recommend regular glucose monitoring, a healthy diet, and exercise.

Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can contribute to the progression of kidney failure. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, hindering the organs’ ability to remove waste and excess fluid from the body. Excess fluid can, in turn, raise blood pressure even more.

Your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure. He or she may also recommend losing weight, if necessary, exercising more, limiting alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking. You may be able to lower blood pressure by eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, legumes, and healthy fats, such as olive oil.

Reducing stress may also help lower blood pressure. Our experts offer integrative therapies—including acupuncture, massage, and meditation—designed to lower stress and improve wellbeing.

Make Dietary Changes

Eating a proper diet is important for people who have been diagnosed with kidney disease. At NYU Langone, registered dietitians provide customized dietary counseling. They take into consideration any other conditions, such as diabetes, you may have, as well as the level of kidney function.

Your doctor may also suggest reducing your intake of sodium, or salt, which can build up in the body when the kidneys are not working properly, causing fluid retention. This can lead to swelling in the legs and abdomen and raise blood pressure.

You may need to reduce your intake of other minerals. These include phosphorus, which helps to build strong bones. When the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, excess phosphorus can build up in the body and reduce the amount of calcium in bones, weakening them and making them prone to breaking. Your doctor may recommend limiting your consumption of foods high in phosphorus—including dairy products, processed meats, bread, beer, colas, and chocolate—to 800 to 1,000 milligrams per day.

Another mineral, potassium, helps to regulate heart rate. When the kidneys aren’t working properly, potassium can build up in the body, increasing the risk for an irregular heart rate, called an arrhythmia, or a heart attack. Your doctor may recommend that you eat less of certain fruits, such as bananas, and vegetables, including broccoli, that are rich in potassium.

People who have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and are not receiving dialysis treatment may be advised to eat less protein. When the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, they may not be able to filter protein, causing an unhealthy buildup in the urine called proteinuria.

Our Research and Education in Kidney Disease

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.