Kidney Health and Heart Health: How one affects the other
Like Abbott and Costello, Tom and Jerry and Lennon and McCartney, our kidney health and heart health are an epic duo – to maintain one, we must work to maintain the other.
Your heart delivers oxygen to every part of your body through the bloodstream; your kidneys filter the blood, while also regulating water and salt levels, controlling blood pressure and keeping the blood circulating efficiently. The symbiotic nature of this dynamic duo means that changes to one organ – for instance, crystals in your kidneys or hypertension in your cardiovascular system – can keep the other from functioning appropriately.
Love Your Low Sodium Diet
For this reason, many on a low-oxalate diet are also encouraged to watch sodium intake, which is more than passing up the salt shaker. Many foods, especially pre-packaged and restaurant foods, have sodium added before they reach your table. In fact, more than 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from packaged and restaurant foods.
An overabundance of sodium in your diet pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the volume inside them – and also offsets the delicate balance of sodium and potassium needed for the kidneys to filter the blood. More blood means more pressure and lessened kidney function. Added pressure makes it more difficult for your heart to pump the blood – and adds unnecessary strain on your kidneys.
With some education and attention to nutrition label details, loving a low-sodium diet can be attainable, even if you’re used to the taste of super-salty foods.
• Avoid the “Salty Six” – six popular foods with higher-than-average levels of sodium.
• Read nutrition labels for terms like saline, sodium solution, monosodium glutamate, disodium guanylate or trisodium phosphate – which all indicate added salt.
• Replace salt or sodium-filled seasonings with onions, garlic or vinegar for flavor without the sodium.
• Add foods with potassium – preferably low-oxalate foods like bananas, nonfat yogurt and cantaloupe.
Love Your Low-Oxalate Diet
While most processed foods are packed with extra sodium, many clean foods can grow right in your backyard contain a compound that can disturb the inter-reliant kidney health and heart health system. Oxalates can be found in a variety of foods, including leafy greens, potatoes, tomatoes and even chocolate. Oxalates are anti-nutrients – compounds that bind with nutrients your body needs, like calcium. Keeping oxalate consumption at the recommended level – less than 100 mg per day – can help maintain kidney function, providing the waste-filtering power your body needs to run smoothly.
A low-oxalate diet can be tricky, as not all foods groups have the same oxalate levels. Some ideas for maintaining a kidney-friendly, low-oxalate diet include:
• Researching and downloading reliable lists with foods that contain the lowest oxalate levels.
• Enjoying more calcium-rich foods, like low-fat yogurt and low-sodium cheeses (Swiss is a great choice!)
• Substituting low-oxalate foods with other options (For instance, mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.)
Love Your Kidney and Heart Friendly Lifestyle
Dietary changes may not be easy, but they’re worth it. When your kidney health and heart health are maintained, you will likely feel better in the long run. Consistency is the most important part of loving your kidneys and your heart. Try these tips for loving your kidney and heart-friendly lifestyle:
• Join a support group online that addresses low-oxalate and low-sodium diets.
• Adapt your new dietary lifestyles slowly by replacing one food at a time.
• Find an accountability partner – a friend, coworker or spouse – who can start your new lifestyle with you. Use each other for support and encouragement.
• Develop a mantra or find a quote that inspires you to love your kidney-and heart-friendly lifestyle. Start here: “My Heart and Kidneys are worth it!”
• In a journal, write down your favorite recipes, enjoyable aspects of your lifestyle or poignant reminders of why you’re working to maintain your health.
These tips can help you take control of your diet for a healthier tomorrow. Through education, motivation and consistency, loving your kidneys and heart will become second nature!