Although people with chronic kidney failure usually do not live as long as people without any illness, kidney failure itself is not usually fatal. The main cause of death for kidney patients is heart disease.
Permanent damage to the heart often happens early in kidney failure, before dialysis or a transplant is needed. This damage may be due to high blood pressure, anemia, and fluid overload. It is also possible that the wastes that build up in the blood when kidneys fail have a toxic effect on the heart. Neither dialysis nor a transplant can do anything to repair an already damaged heart.
If you have kidney failure, it is especially important you look after yourself properly. Simple measures include:
- Stop smoking. Smoking can damage the arteries and makes heart disease worse.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat food that is fresh and low in salt and avoid fatty foods. Avoid fluid overload and ask your healthcare team for advice.
- Monitor cholesterol. If the level of cholesterol (fat) in your blood is too high despite a good diet, you may need to take extra drugs called statins to lower the level.
- Exercise regularly and moderately. This keeps your heart and muscles strong and healthy. Discuss your exercise program with your doctor first in case you also have heart disease.
- Check your blood pressure regularly. High blood pressure will continue to damage your kidneys and put strain on the heart and other blood vessels. Your doctor should measure your blood pressure regularly and may prescribe drugs to bring it down.
- Make sure you are not anemic.
May 1, 2006