When there is some kind of problem with the heart and blood vessels, a person is suffering from some kind of heart ailment. Over time, the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart and brain can become blocked from a build-up of cells, fat and cholesterol. This results in the reduction of the blood flow to the heart and brain which causes heart attacks and strokes.
This risk is increased in the case of kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain lifestyle factors that include being overweight and smoking.
However, people with kidney diseases are much more prone to develop heart and blood vessel disease. Hence, it is very important for such patients to take steps for the prevention of heart and blood vessel problems.
When we start making changes towards improving our heart health, we are also helping our kidneys to stay healthy. The following steps are helpful in keeping the kidneys as well as the heart healthy:
- Get tested.
As it turns out, heart disease is a risk factor for kidney disease and kidney disease is a known risk factor for heart disease. Hence, if a person has one, he/she should definitely get tested for the other.
- Eat a balanced, kidney and heart healthy, diet.
Reduce sodium in the diet. Reduce foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol like eggs, whole milk, cheese and fried foods. Eat more foods that are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids like cold water fish, flaxseed oil, canola oil and walnuts.
- Increase physical activity.
Physical activity like walking offers many health benefits including decreasing blood pressure, lowering blood fat levels, increasing muscle strength, and helping control body weight which will make the person feel good.
- Reduce cholesterol levels.
High blood levels of fats like cholesterol increase the chances of developing heart and blood vessel problems. Simple blood tests can check for total cholesterol and other fats in the blood. If these levels are too high, the person may need to follow a low-fat diet and exercise more. Some patients may also need to take pills to help lower cholesterol.
- Keep high blood pressure under control.
Follow the treatment plan carefully to control high blood pressure This will help to protect the heart. Be sure to keep a check on fluid and sodium limits to keep fluid from building up in the body and in turn increasing the blood pressure.
- If suffering from diabetes, keep the blood sugar well controlled.
Over time having high blood sugar can cause damage to eyes, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. Good control of blood sugar and other self-management actions can help slow or stop this damage from happening.
- Quit smoking.
The strongest risk factor for both kidney and heart disease is smoking. Smoking causes hardening of the arteries which causes both Coronary Artery Disease and Nephrosclerosis. Smoking is also a risk factor for high blood pressure which can cause both heart and kidney disease.
Get started protecting the heart today! Set down personal goals and begin making changes one at a time. A healthcare provider can help prioritize the areas of change. If there is already some degree of kidney dysfunction, adopting some of the above recommendations might help. The physician and/or dietician could also assist with these changes.
The writer, Dr. Sudeep Singh Sachdev, is a Consultant Nephrology & Kidney Transplant at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram