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Chronic Kidney Disease: The Basics

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You’ve been told that you have chronic kidney disease (CKD). What does that mean? And what does it mean for your health and your life? This booklet will help answer some of the questions you might have.

You have two kidneys, each about the size of your fist. Their main job is to filter wastes and excess water out of your blood to make urine. They also keep the body’s chemical balance, help control blood pressure, and make hormones.

CKD means that your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood like they should. This damage can cause wastes to build up in your body. It can also cause other problems that can harm your health.

CKD is often a “progressive” disease, which means it can get worse over time. CKD may lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain health.

You can take steps to keep your kidneys healthier longer:

  • Choose foods with less salt (sodium).
  • Keep your blood pressure at the level set by your health care provider.
  • Keep your blood glucose in the target range, if you have diabetes.

Do I need to change what I drink?

  • Water — You don’t need to drink more water unless you have kidney stones. Drink as much water as you normally do.
  • Soda and other drinks — If you are told to limit phosphorus, choose light-colored soda (or pop), like lemon-lime, and homemade iced tea and lemonade. Dark-colored sodas, fruit punch, and some bottled and canned iced teas can have a lot of phosphorus.
  • Juice — If you are told to limit potassium, drink apple, grape, or cranberry juice instead of orange juice.
  • Alcohol — You may be able to drink small amounts of alcohol. Drinking too much can damage the liver, heart, and brain and cause serious health problems.

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