Loving Your Heart This Valentine’s Day

Published on: 02/02/2023

This Valentine’s Day, show your loved ones you care for them by making heart health a priority. Many chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients are unaware of their increased risk of developing heart disease. Understanding the relationship between the two disease processes is essential to maintain heart and kidney health.

Consider this scenario, after going through security at a small airport; you decide to walk by the monitors to check your flight’s status. The sun is shining, and there is less than a 10% chance of rain, but you want to be sure. Much to your dismay, your flight gets delayed due to severe weather at a major airport a thousand miles away. Sometimes all it takes is one or two major airports reporting weather delays to disrupt the entire flight schedule. Likewise, think of your heart and kidneys as the major airports connected by the smaller airports. When there is a problem with the heart or kidney, it is not uncommon for something to go wrong somewhere else. Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are more susceptible to developing heart disease than individuals with normal-functioning kidneys.

One of the main functions of the heart is to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body, including the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for cleaning the blood and removing waste products and water. When kidney function declines, your blood contains excess waste and water, which places additional pressure on the heart. When heart function declines, the kidneys will not receive the oxygenated blood needed to maintain blood pressure, manufacture red blood cells, and preserve bone strength.

By managing certain risk factors, you put yourself in a better place to prevent or slow the progression of these diseases. CKD and heart disease share risk factors, such as diabetes and hypertension. For patients with diabetes, managing blood sugar is essential for protecting your heart. Uncontrolled blood sugars can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control your heart’s function. Patients with high blood pressure increase the course of blood through the body and can damage the artery walls.

Patients can reduce their risks of developing heart disease even further by:

Managing Weight: Kidneys can be directly affected by excess body weight. Knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI) estimates your total body fat percentage. The normal range for BMI is typically between 18-25, an overweight BMI is between 25-30, and BMI above 30 is considered overweight. By maintaining a healthy BMI, you will help lower your risk of heart and kidney disease.

Eating A Diet Low in Sodium: Limiting sodium intake is vital for those with heart disease or CKD. Instead of consuming heavily processed snacks high in salt, try replacing those snacks with low-sodium foods such as whole fruits and vegetables.

Exercising: Daily exercise is excellent for weight management and cardiovascular health. Exercise does not have to be miserable; increasing your step count can be a simple way to become more active. Other activities can include hiking, Zumba, weightlifting, yoga, swimming, basketball, or any other activity which motivates you! As always, before starting any exercise routine, it is essential to talk with your doctor.

With this knowledge, instead of diving into heart-shaped cookies, candies, and chocolate this Valentine’s Day, take time to reflect on how you can improve your heart function. Modest changes such as managing controllable conditions, maintaining a healthy BMI, lowering sodium in the diet, and following an exercise routine can significantly impact your health. Understanding the relationship between the two disease processes is essential to protect your heart and kidney health.

Looking for help managing your kidney disease? Check out our CKD program!

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Meet Heather
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Although I’ve been a dietitian for more than 20 years, it’s the past few years that have convinced me to take control of my own health by changing the way I eat. So many chronic illnesses can be corrected or prevented through good nutrition. I am thankful to have the opportunity to walk with people in my community, Beaufort, SC and beyond, through their own journeys as they reclaim their health.

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