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    Expert Talk: Nephrologist Dr Suresh Sankar Shares 10 Common Lifestyle Habits That Could Be Damaging Your Kidneys

    Your kidneys work 24/7 to keep the body healthy by filtering out toxins and extra fluid and regulating blood pressure. Damage to these vital organs could be irreversible, yet so many are unaware of the day-to-day habits that can deteriorate kidney health. So what should you avoid doing and which healthy habits should you adopt?

    TC46 connected with Dr Suresh Sankar, Nephrologist & Senior VP of Clinical Affairs at NephroPlus. He talks about the ill-effects of processed foods, irregular sleep patterns and underlying health conditions on your kidneys.

    1. How does eating processed food actually affect the kidneys?

    Processed food has a higher content of sodium and phosphorus as additives and in addition, they are calorie-dense. The health implications are high blood pressure risk from sodium intake and obesity risk from higher intake of calories. High blood pressure and obesity negatively affect kidney health, but we must remember they are slow burners and give us time to correct.

    2. Can eating too much protein harm kidneys?

    High protein intake has a negative effect on kidney function by altering the microcirculation of kidney blood flow and also by increasing the acid burden of the body.

    It may be good to know what is too much protein. The amount of protein is adjusted for the weight of the body: Recommended as 0.8 g/kg of body weight.  We are also learning that a plant-based protein diet may be more beneficial for patients with moderate kidney disease.

    3. Is it true that overuse of painkillers can lead to a potential risk of kidney cancer by 50%?

    All painkillers cannot be put into one basket and time matters too for the risk. Kidney cancer risk is linked to non-prescription use (not under doctor’s supervision) of Acetaminophen, a component of the medicine we commonly consume for fever treatment. In such a context, dose and frequency are hard to define. Use for more than 10 years is reported to increase risk. There was no risk linked to other pain killers and also when used with physician supervision.

    4. How are kidney functions related to a person’s sleep-wake cycle? What happens if a person doesn’t get enough sleep?

    Variation in intrinsic kidney functions with the circadian rhythm is described. This includes kidney blood flow, how the kidney handles salt and water and also hormone secretion for blood production.  But we do not know of the direct clinical impact of disturbance of circadian rhythm on kidney health.

    5. What happens to your kidneys if you often eat foods that are high in sugar?

    It is good to know the source of sugars first; beyond sweets, chocolates and desserts, packaged juice and soda are common sources in the modern context.

    A higher intake from these sources is a major driver of obesity,  diabetes, hypertension and direct kidney injury in certain contexts. In general “modernisation” of life has been associated with progressively higher sugar intake.

    6. How does smoking lead to kidney damage?

    Smoking has been identified as an independent risk factor for causing kidney disease. It can raise the risk of high blood pressure and also worsen kidney disease in diabetics. The risk remains high for years after cessation of smoking.

    7. How does sitting still for long periods of time affect your kidney health?

    Sitting for long periods can be interpreted as a sedentary lifestyle and less than ideal physical activity. There is no direct proven relationship between the level of physical activity and kidney health. Increased physical activity there might have indirect benefits for kidney health from lesser obesity, high blood pressure and diabetic risk.

    8. Can excessive caffeine consumption lead to kidney stones?

    Moderate caffeine intake is noted to have a protective effect for kidney stone formation due to Calcium buy its diuretic effect. It is important to know the concept of “quantity” in this context.               

    Experts say that 300 mg of caffeine intake in a day is safe. 230 ml of black coffee will have about 130 mg of caffeine. Coffee taken with milk and sugar is bound to have less caffeine. The verdict is not final on caffeine intake and kidney disease risk but it is fair to say that intake of 2 cups of coffee is well within the safe range.

    9. Is it true that maintaining a full bladder for long periods of time can cause harm to one’s kidneys?

    There is no particular increased risk of kidney health from long periods of voluntary holding of the bladder and delaying emptying.

    10. How can ignoring common infections like flu, cold and tonsillitis lead to kidney problems in the future?

    Mostly there is no significant long term health risk related to transient viral infections and kidney health is no exception. In some pre-existent kidney conditions, particularly a type of Nephritis, respiratory infections can trigger certain disease-related symptoms.

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