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As we approach the milestone of another new year, our thoughts sometimes turn to festive events, ball drops, confetti, and maybe tail-gaiting parties. Why not start off the New Year with this list of kidney-friendly top 10 resolutions, courtesy of the National Kidney Foundation (“Kidney-Friendly New Years Resolutions.”)

Whether our kidneys are A-1 (or maybe not so much), it is always a good idea to plan time to de-stress our lives—take time to read, meditate, appreciate nature, immerse yourself in activities and hobbies that make you happy, be with friends and loved ones, and pamper yourself! These steps have been linked to strengthening our immune system—and just as importantly, they just make our lives better!

Now, on to those top 10 resolutions:

  1. Eat breakfast. Breakfast didn’t earn its reputation as the most important meal of the day for no reason. Studies show you’re less likely to overeat during the day if you eat a healthy breakfast in the morning.
  2. Avoid unnecessary pain killers. The same medications that help alleviate your aches can have dangerous side effects, including harming the kidneys. It’s important to read both prescription and over the counter (OTC) drug labels in order to evaluate the risks and benefits before taking a particular medication.
  3. Exercise. Physical activity offers many health benefits, including decreasing blood pressure, increasing muscle strength, lowering blood fat levels (cholesterol and triglycerides), improving sleep, increasing insulin sensitivity and helping control body weight. If those weren’t reason enough to lace up your sneakers, studies have also shown that kidney patients who exercise have better outcomes for dialysis and transplantation.
  4. Get organized. Start with your medicine cabinet and move on to your medical records and lab documents. Make a list of all the medications you’re currently taking, including vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Sometimes medications and supplements can interact with one another in different ways and all your healthcare providers may not know what other specialists have prescribed for you. Keep the list handy to bring to appointments and to share with primary care practitioners and specialists alike. Keep a copy of all recent medical test results in one place, such as a mobile app or file cabinet.
  5. Quit smoking. It’s getting cold out and many bars and restaurants are smoke free, making it the perfect time to start saving yourself the trip outside while improving your health. Smoking slows the blood flow to the kidneys and can also interfere with medications used to treat high blood pressure, reducing their effectiveness. Quitting can be difficult, but it is one of the most important lifestyle changes that you can make to protect your kidneys.
  6. Sit less and stand more. Recent research has linked sitting for 8 hours or more a day with developing kidney disease. Sitting for that length of time is typical for the average desk job, but most of us go way beyond that. We sit on the couch, while driving, while riding the bus, and during dinner, just to name a few! Dedicate 2014 as the year you take a stand.
  7. Get an annual kidney check-up. Show your kidneys some love with a urine test to check for protein in the urine, one of the earliest signs of kidney disease, and a blood test for creatinine to calculate your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). GFR tells how well your kidneys are working to remove wastes from your blood. Speak with your healthcare provider about getting these tests. Early kidney disease can and should be treated to keep it from getting worse!
  8. Lose weight. December may have been the month of the holiday party buffets, but now it’s time to hunker down and re-commit to your weight loss goals. Obesity can cause kidney disease because the kidneys have to work harder to filter out toxins and to meet the metabolic demands of the increased body mass index (BMI) in obese individuals. Share your weight loss progress with others and stick with healthy lifestyle changes even if you don’t initially see results on the scale.
  9. Sleep more. There are plenty of reasons to hit the sack earlier to make sure you’re catching enough zzz’s each night. Studies suggest that irregular sleep patterns, eating before going to sleep and not getting enough sleep are all linked to obesity, while getting enough sleep is linked with maintaining a healthy weight. When it comes to a good night’s rest, most people require about 7 hours.
  10. Shake the salt habit. Break up with the salt shaker and look out for high sodium levels in processed foods. High blood pressure causes both kidney and heart diseases and people with kidney failure are three times as likely to have heart disease.

Other good on-line information is available from other sources as well, including the Renal Support Network and the American Kidney Fund, or just type “new years resolutions for kidney disease patients” in your internet search bar.

Wishing everyone a very safe, happy and healthy holiday season!
-The UNC Kidney Center and Division of Nephrology and Hypertension faculty and staff