Happy Heart Month to Your Heart and Kidneys

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Happy Heart Month to your heart and kidneys

by Stephanie Legin RD, LDN B

Our Body Systems Work Together — for Us Or Against Us

Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States? Were you aware that in Canada, heart disease is the number two leading cause of death? There are many factors that increase your risk of developing heart disease — having Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is one of them. Conversely, your risk for developing kidney disease increases if you have heart disease. Unfortunately, both diseases adversely affect each other and share many of the same risk factors, like diabetes and high blood pressure.


One of the major risk factors for developing kidney and heart disease is diabetes. Over time, uncontrolled diabetes can have a detrimental effect on your body. Poorly managed blood sugars can cause oxidative stress, which can damage blood vessels and nerves in both the kidneys and the heart, reducing their ability to function properly.

High Blood Pressure

Another major risk factor for developing kidney and heart disease is high blood pressure or hypertension. Over time, increased pressure on blood vessels can weaken and cause significant damage to vessels in your kidneys and heart diminishing their ability to work efficiently. Impaired kidney function reduces the body’s capability to regulate fluid and salt levels. Excess fluid buildup in the body, especially in the blood vessels, causes high blood pressure and contributes to worsening kidney and heart disease. It’s a vicious cycle.

Knowledge Is Power!

If you are aware of your medical issues and how to manage them, you have the power to make healthier lifestyle choices that can positively influence your health. So, what can you do? If you are living with CKD, heart disease and/or diabetes, following a healthy lifestyle may help manage and slow the progression of your disease(s). Below are some healthy lifestyle and diet tips to keep your body, especially your heart and kidneys, as healthy as possible.

Lifestyle Tips To Protect Your Heart And Kidneys

yoga exercise for heart health
  • Set up regular visits with your doctors and have routine blood work drawn to assess your physical status.
  • Visit a Registered Dietitian to help you individualize your diet to enable you to make educated food selections to best meet your dietary needs.
  • If you smoke, STOP!  
  • Increase activity! Twenty to thirty minutes of regular, consistent activity most days of the week is recommended (i.e. walking, swimming, biking, etc.). Always be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routines. 
  • Avoid or limit stress in your life. Stress can negatively affect both your emotional and physical well-being. De-stress your life by getting regular activity, practicing stress management techniques, and making healthy food choices.
  • Keep blood pressure under good control through diet, exercise and taking your medicines as prescribed. Help keep that blood pressure regulated by learning how to manage stress in your life.
  • Manage heart disease by regular cardiovascular activity like walking, swimming or low impact aerobics and eating a low fat/cholesterol, high fiber diet.
  • If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugars daily and regulate them with diet and prescribed medications.  

Healthy Diet Tips To Protect Your Heart And Kidneys

The food choices you make can impact your health.  The following is a basic list of healthy foods most individuals should include in their diet to stay healthy and well nourished. Based on your health status and lab results, your doctor and dietitian can help you decipher what foods fit best into your diet to meet your individualized needs.


  • Select 100% whole grain (not enriched) breads, cereals, rice, noodles and pasta to get necessary B vitamins for energy and fiber to help control cholesterol and blood sugars.  
  • Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. If your diet allows, include at least five servings to your daily menu to increase vitamin, antioxidant and fiber intake. If you have CKD, you may need to limit potassium in the diet. You may be encouraged to stick to more low-potassium fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber found in most fruits and vegetables helps to lower cholesterol levels and manage blood sugars.
  • Pick fat free or low-fat milk and dairy products. Since dairy products are high in potassium and phosphorus, if you have kidney disease you may need to limit your dairy consumption. Lucky for you, there are many CKD friendly dairy alternatives! If you have heart disease, avoiding whole milk and whole milk dairy products will decrease the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet.  
  • Buy lean, fresh cuts of meat, pork, and poultry. Lean protein choices help to decrease saturated fat and cholesterol intake that negatively affect cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease.  
  • Include fresh fish (like tuna, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout or salmon) and seafood in your diet at least twice a week for some heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Create some meals using meat substitutes like soy products and legumes (i.e. tofu, edamame, beans like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc., nuts, seeds). Vegetable based protein sources are a great way to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol and a great way to consume more fiber and vitamins to keep cholesterol and blood sugars in check. Try making one vegetable-based protein dinner a week instead of a meal focused around animal protein.
  • If you need to use fat for cooking or to add to a meal, choose heart healthy, mono and polyunsaturated fats (like olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, safflower, sunflower, peanut oils). Moderate amounts in the diet can help keep the heart healthy!

Be Aware!

  • Watch your sodium intake! The recommended amount of daily sodium for intake for individuals with CKD is 1500mg. Eliminate adding salt while cooking and definitely do not add to your meals at the table!
  • Avoid highly processed, high sodium foods like salty snack foods, canned vegetables and soups, frozen meals, convenience foods, deli meats, fast foods, olives, sauerkraut, pickles, bacon, ham, etc.
  • Refer to Flavoring Foods Without Salt — The Kidney Patient’s Guide to Herbs and Spices for ways to spice up your meals without adding salt!
  • Review Basics to Limiting Sodium in the Diet for Individuals with CKD (Part I) and Beyond the Basics: Tools to Limiting Sodium in the Diet for Individuals with CKD (Part II)
  • If you have been advised to limit potassium in your diet, avoid using salt substitutes, as they are potassium based.
  • Avoid junk food in your diet (i.e. fast food, cakes, pies, cookies, donuts, chips, etc.).  These foods are typically loaded with sodium, saturated, trans-fats, and sugars that only negatively impact blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • If you are in the later stages of CKD, your doctor may recommend limiting how much fluid you can consume each day.  If you have edema or weight gain due to fluid retention, limiting fluid consumption can help decrease fluid retention, which helps alleviate pressure on blood vessels and controls blood pressure better.
  • To help control your diabetes, eat regularly scheduled meals and stick to appropriate portion sizes (especially portions of carbohydrates). Avoid eating foods that contain simple carbohydrates like foods made with refined white flour (enriched breads, pastas, rice and noodles, cereals) or foods with high amounts of added sugars (such as sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, etc.).

Be aware as CKD advances, diet restriction may be necessary to manage the disease better.  Work closely with your healthcare team to monitor your labs and overall health status. From there they can help you make the necessary dietary changes to help you meet your individual needs.  

The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. KidneyChef urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. KidneyChef advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. KidneyChef does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. KidneyChef does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by KidneyChef is solely at your own risk.












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