Some risk factors for kidney disease—such as age, race, or family history—are not possible to control, but there are measures you can take to help avoid chronic kidney disease and kidney stones.

Control Blood Sugar

If you're diabetic, control your blood sugar. High blood-sugar levels damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys as well as the rest of the body.

Control Blood Pressure

Keep your blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure also damages these delicate blood vessels in the kidneys.

Reduce Salt Intake

Too much sodium/salt intake increases blood pressure. High blood pressure causes chronic kidney disease.

Quit Smoking

One of the many consequences of smoking is kidney damage.

Be Careful with OTC Drugs

Follow dosage instructions for over-the-counter medications. Taking too much aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can cause kidney damage. If normal doses of these medications are not effective at controlling pain, see a doctor.

Get Tested

Ask your doctor about getting a blood test for kidney problems. Kidney problems generally do not cause symptoms until they have progressed relatively far. A “basic metabolic panel” (BMP) is a standard blood test that is commonly ordered as part of a routine medical exam or physical. Part of what a BMP is for is to test for creatinine or urea—chemicals that leak into the blood when the kidneys are not working properly. A BMP can detect issues early, when they are easier to treat. If you are diabetic or have heart disease, high blood pressure, or another kidney disease risk factor, you should be tested annually.

Drink Plenty of Water

Dehydration can cause kidney damage. In addition, drinking water leads to frequent urination, which can help expel kidney stones before they grow large enough to cause severe pain as they pass through.

Limit Certain Foods

Different chemicals in your diet can contribute to certain types of kidney stones. These include:

  • excessive sodium
  • animal protein
  • citric acid, found in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits
  • oxalate, a chemical found in rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, sweet potatoes, tea, and chocolate

Normally, you shouldn’t avoid these foods completely, as many of them are rich in beneficial vitamins and nutrients. If you've had kidney stones, your doctor can analyze your particular type of stone and offer advice about adjusting your diet.

Ask About Calcium

Consult a doctor before taking a calcium supplement. Calcium supplements have been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones, though reducing intake of oxalic acid and increasing citric acid in the diet are more important to reducing the incidence of kidney stones than reducing calcium stones.