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Heart-Healthy Advice for People with Kidney Disease

Written by DaVita dietitian Amy Braglia, MS, RD

Maybe it’s time you give your heart some TLC — therapeutic lifestyle changes. What are therapeutic lifestyle changes? These are behaviors that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. For people with chronic kidney disease, a little TLC can make a big difference in how you feel and your quality of life.

Therapeutic lifestyle changes may include exercise, dietary changes, quitting smoking, weight loss or a combination of any of these. TLC may be recommended by your doctor to control cholesterol levels and blood pressure, with or without the use of medicines. High blood pressure contributes to cardiovascular disease, including left ventricular hypertrophy, aneurysm formation and atherosclerosis. Controlling blood pressure is also important for people with chronic kidney disease because high blood pressure may damage kidneys. One goal for people with chronic kidney disease is to prolong kidney function so it doesn’t progress to end stage kidney disease. TLC can help.

Your doctor may suggest working with a dietitian or renal dietitian, who specializes in planning diets for people with kidney disease, to learn about healthy eating habits and exercise. A dietitian can help you to develop a plan to lose weight if needed. Additionally, a renal dietitian will recommend a kidney-friendly eating plan.

Why try TLC when medicines can help heart disease and kidney disease?

According to one study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity can help you lead a longer, healthier life. Changes in health behaviors may have benefits that medicines do not. Studies have also shown that a healthy diet and exercise can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer.

What kind of diet can reduce my risk of heart disease and kidney disease?

There are several dietary changes that may help to keep your heart and kidneys healthy:

  1. Eat less dietary fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fats are found in fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, lard and egg yolks. Trans fats are found in deep-fried foods and pre-packaged baked goods including crackers, cookies, muffins, doughnuts and foods prepared with shortening as well as some margarines.
  2. Include some heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Good sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Nuts, seeds and avocado are also high in good fats.  However, some people with chronic kidney disease may need to limit these due to their potassium, phosphorus and protein content. Ask your dietitian or doctor if you can fit these foods into your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon. They can also be taken in the form of fish oil capsules. Ask your doctor or dietitian before taking any nutrition supplements to be certain they won’t interfere with your medicines.
  3. Try to eat more fiber. Fiber can be found in whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables. Talk to your dietitian to fit the right amount of fiber into your diet. If phosphorus or potassium are a concern, your dietitian may recommend getting fiber from foods that have lower amounts of these nutrients.

If I have kidney disease, should I really exercise for my heart?

Absolutely! Generally, thirty minutes to one hour of exercise most days of the week is recommended for therapeutic lifestyle changes. Exercise can take many forms, including walking, biking and even yard work or housework. For exercise to be most effective, it should be at least moderately difficult. Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. It may also be beneficial to talk to an exercise expert, such as an exercise physiologist, physical therapist or certified personal trainer.

TLC and CKD treatment

TLC for your heart may also help your kidneys and your whole body. Talk to your doctor and dietitian to find out if you need therapeutic lifestyle changes to improve your health. A little TLC may lead to a much longer and happier life!

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