When was the last time you thought about your kidneys? Do you perhaps think that we take this organ for granted until something goes wrong? World Kidney Day (WKD) is celebrated in March. The mission of WKD is to ‘raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys to our overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide’1. It started in 2006 and is a joint initiative of the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations.

The global campaign highlights a particular theme every year. This year the theme is Kidneys & Women’s Health: Include, Value, Empower. This comes as no surprise as Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) affects approximately 195 million women worldwide. Currently it is the 8th leading cause of death in women2. It is also fitting that WKD fallson International Women’s Day this year.
Are women at a higher risk of CKD?
Studies suggest that CKD has an average prevalence of 14% in women and 12% in men3.Typically, lupus nephropathy or kidney infection affect women. Women who have CKD are also at risk for reduced fertility and negative outcomes during pregnancy2.

Kidney disease is often referred to as the silent killer. This is because symptoms of CKD are extremely subtle during the early stages and may only become apparent after kidney function is significantly impaired. There are however numerous way to decrease your risk of developing kidney disease which include the following:

1. It is advised that you exercise. Regular exercise keeps you fit and assists you in maintaining a healthy weight. This in turn lowers your risk of diabetes and hypertension and thus kidney disease.Try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity (e.g. cycling, jogging or walking briskly) every week4.

2. Make sure you eat right so maintaining a healthy weight isn’t a fight. Following a healthy, balanced diet has a long list of health benefits. This includes reducing your risk of most conditions associated with kidney disease such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Tips for following a healthy, balanced diet include the following:

  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables- include at least 5 fruits and vegetables in your daily diet (1 portion of fruit= 1 small fruit approximately 120g. 1 portion of vegetables = ½ cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw vegetables).
  • Choose low Glycaemic Index (GI) foods. These foods are digested slowly and help to keep you fuller for longer.
  • Increase your fibre intake. Sources of fibre should contain 6g or more fibre per 100g. FUTURELIFE® Smart food™, HIGH PROTEIN Smart food™ and Smart Oats® and Ancient Grains are all high in fibre.
  • Snack on healthy foods such as fruits, nuts and seeds.
  • Eat less saturated fat which is found in fried foods, pastries, pies, cakes, take-aways, full fat cheeses, processed meat, chips and biscuits. Eat more of the ‘good’ mono-and poly- unsaturated fats like avocado, peanut butter (no sugar or salt added), olive oil, nuts, seeds and fish.
  • Include lean protein sources in your diet-remember to cut off any excess fat from meat before cooking.
  • Do not skip meals. Skipping meals causes you to over eat later and has long term effects of slowing down your metabolism.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Limit your intake of salt- avoid using stock cubes, prepare your own meals with the little salt added, don’t add extra salt to food at the table and rinse canned foods containing sodium.

3. Check yourself before you neglect your health Regular tests to monitor kidney function are especially important for people who have diabetes and hypertension. Approximately 50% of diabetics develop kidney damage. High blood pressure is a common cause of kidney damage and is more likely to cause kidney damage when combined with factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases1.

4. No joking, stop smoking Did you know that smoking increases your risk of kidney cancer by 50%1? Smoking decreases the rate of blood flow to the kidneys thus impairing their ability to function normally. Smoking heightens risk of cardiovascular disease(including heart attacks or strokes) which in turn increases risk of kidney disease. If you stop smoking you can decrease your risk of these serious conditions as well as improve your overall health.

5. You really should consume enough fluid Drinking sufficient amounts of fluid assists the kidneys to clear urea, sodium and other toxins from the body. As a result of this, CKD risk is significantly lowered. Fluid requirements are individualistic based on gender, climate, exercise and health conditions. In general it is recommended that you consume at least 2 litres daily. Remember to limit alcohol consumption as excessive amounts could lead to an increase both blood pressure and cholesterol levels thus increasing CKD risk4

6. Chill before you take a pill Regular use of common drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (e.g. aspirin and ibuprofen) is linked to kidney disease1. If you suffer with chronic pain and use these drugs, make sure that you consult your doctor.

7. Be brisk if you’re at risk Don’t let CKD creep up on you. If you have one or more of the following ‘high risk’ factors make sure that you monitor your kidney function before it’s too late:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • One of your parents or family members have CKD
  • You are of African, Asian, or Aboriginal origin1

Celebrate WKD this year by taking the time to value your kidneys and make every effort to keep them as healthy as possible.


  1. World Kidney Day. ,; 2018 >
  2. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. ,; 2018 >
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information,; 2016>
  4. NHS Choices. ,; 2016>
  5. Vorster HH, Badham JB, Venter CS. An introduction to the revised food-based dietary guidelines for South Africa. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;26(3).
  7. Arnarson A. Heathline ,; 2017
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