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3 Ways to Protect Your Bones When You Have Kidney Disease

When you have renal disease, you're constantly fighting a battle to prevent further kidney damage and protect your overall health. It's an even bigger challenge when you have diabetes or high blood pressure to maintain as much kidney function as possible. Another health issue you should be aware of when you have renal disease is the risk of osteoporosis.

An estimated 10 million people in the United States have osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones), according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The organization considers osteoporosis a national health priority, and if you have renal disease your risk for osteoporosis is even greater than someone with healthier kidneys.

There are a few reasons chronic kidney disease can increase your risk for osteoporosis.

1. Kidney disease limits the amount of vitamin D your body can absorb from the sun and food sources. When you lack adequate vitamin D, your body is also unable to absorb calcium from your diet needed to keep your bones strong and healthy.

2. Poor kidney function can interfere with a hormone that helps regular absorption of calcium and phosphorous used to strengthen your bones. When levels of this hormone are compromised by kidney disease, it can increase your risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.

3. If you require dialysis treatments, it can also negatively affect bone health.

Healthy habits to support bone health when you have kidney disease

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to maintain strong bones, even if you have kidney disease.

1. Get a bone density test.

When your doctor reviews the results, she'll be able to assess the health of your bones and determine your risk for osteoporosis.

2. Take a vitamin D supplement.

Recommendations vary, but Mayo Clinic doctors recommend taking up to 1,370 IU of vitamin D to support bone health. Direct exposure to sunlight, vitamin-D-rich foods, and foods fortified with vitamin D like some cereal and orange juice can also help. Check out more healthy food choices for people with renal disease here.

3. Get more physical activity.

Weight-bearing exercises are especially effective at strengthening the bones. Try push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, or even lifting light weights to build stronger bones, improve balance, and reduce the risk of falls and fractures. Even activities you can do from sitting in a chair holding light weights can help.

When you have renal disease, osteoporosis and the risk of a fall or fracture is a reality. But you don't have to wait for a fracture to take action. Getting tested, improving your diet and lifestyle habits can help protect your bones and your health.