9 Habits to Keep Your Heart Healthy on Dialysis

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When you’re on dialysis, paying close attention to your diet is critical to protecting your overall health. After all, you depend on dialysis to do the work your kidneys can't do, to remove excess fluids and toxins from your blood. But your heart needs a little help too.

Want to keep your heart healthy when you’re on dialysis? Here are 10 things you can do.

1. Manage stress in healthy ways.

Relax. Practice deep breathing. Try yoga or massage therapy. Managing stress in healthy ways helps prevent heart disease.

2. Don’t smoke, or quit if you do.

Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels. Second-hand smoke is even more toxic. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, get help to quit. And avoid secondhand smoke.

3. Balance calcium and phosphorus

You need both of these nutrients for best health. But these are frequently out of balance for people on dialysis, which raises the risk for bone disease and heart disease. Limit phosphorus in your diet. Ask your doctor about phosphate binders and vitamin D supplements.

4. Prevent or treat anemia.

It’s a common condition for people on dialysis. Left unchecked, anemia causes muscle tissue in the heart to thicken, making it harder to pump blood. A simple blood test can identify anemia, and medication is available to treat it.

5. Be more active.

Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. Go for a walk. Ride a bike. Swim. Take a fitness class. Being active helps strengthen your heart, lungs, and muscles.

6. Eat heart-healthy foods

Make your own meals with fresh ingredients and limit the amount of sodium, potassium, and phosphorus you consume. Or check out our complete list of Dialysis-Friendly meals ready to eat in minutes. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like Salmon & Vegetable Linguini are especially good for heart health.

7. Control cholesterol levels

When you have high cholesterol levels, you’re at risk for fatty deposits blocking arteries that lead to the heart. This can increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke. Eating foods low in fat can help prevent high cholesterol, and so can regular exercise.

8. Manage blood pressure

If your blood pressure is 120/80 or higher, you’re at risk for developing heart-related problems. Think you don’t have to worry about this? About 1 in 3 adults has elevated or high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. A healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and medication can help control blood pressure.

9. Keep blood sugar levels in check.

Your food choices, activity level, and lifestyle habits make a difference. Check your blood sugar levels to prevent spikes that can damage the heart. Ask your doctor about a simple blood test to measure blood sugar levels. Follow your doctor’s advice to improve your diet and lifestyle habits or take medication to manage blood sugar levels when you’re on dialysis.