Kidney Diet Tips

Slowing Progression of Early Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects nearly 1 in every 7 adults (1). That’s 37 million people in the United States — and 90% of those affected do not even know they have it.

CKD is defined as a gradual loss of kidney function over time. There are five stages of the disease. Stages 1 and 2 considered early CKD. A doctor determines the stage from a test called glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which measures level of kidney function.

Protecting kidney function

In the early stages of CKD, most people do not have symptoms but may be diagnosed during a standard check-up with a doctor. If diagnosed early, there is opportunity to make lifestyle changes to slow or prevent the disease from progressing to later stages.

Here are some things that may help slow the progression of kidney disease:

Follow a heart-healthy diet

During the early stages of CKD, following a heart-healthy diet, like the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, has many potential benefits. Studies show the DASH diet helps decrease blood pressure, lowers the risk for heart disease, and slows the progression of kidney disease (3). DASH diet includes eating a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, while cutting back on high salt and fatty junk food. Adopting a heart-healthy diet now may prevent kidney disease from worsening.


Even as children, we probably heard about the importance of exercising at any age. This becomes even more important as people age and develop chronic conditions like kidney disease or diabetes. Not only does exercising play a role in weight management, it may prevent muscles from weakening, which naturally occurs as we age.

Whether it’s every day or a few times a week, having an exercise routine can benefit physical abilities and prevent injuries. As chronic conditions like CKD and diabetes progress, injuries can make recovery time more difficult and lead to long-term disabilities. Taking action and exercising now may keep muscles strong and benefit overall quality of life. Before starting any exercise program, speak to a doctor to ensure that the best exercises are safe and appropriate.

Stop smoking

Smoking is harmful to every area of the body, including kidneys. Smoking damages kidney arteries, causing a thickening and hardening of those arteries. This leads to a decline in blood flow to the kidneys and overtime worsens CKD.

Nicotine addiction, cravings and temptations make quitting difficult but there are tips to help people succeed. Always discuss with a doctor, but here are a couple of ideas to consider:

  • Try nicotine-replacement therapies like gums and patches
  • Set a quit date and throw out all tobacco products
  • Call a support quit line, check websites and talk to friends/family for support
  • Join a quit-smoking program
  • Never give up and keep trying
  • Regularly monitor blood pressure

Control blood pressure

High blood pressure is a leading cause of CKD. High blood pressure damages the blood vessels by reducing blood supply to the kidneys. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to kidney failure. Keeping an eye on blood pressure regularly may help prevent CKD from worsening. For those with CKD, the goal for a healthy blood pressure reading should be 130/80 or less. In general, blood pressure that stays at 140/90 or higher is considered high.

If possible, check blood pressure at home daily. Keep a record of it and bring to doctor’s appointments for reference. Seeing trends in blood pressure will allow a doctor to provide the best treatment options.

Check blood sugar regularly

Uncontrolled diabetes is another leading cause of CKD. Like high blood pressure, high blood sugars reduce blood supply to kidneys. When sugar builds up in the arteries, blood vessels become narrower. As a result there is less blood flow to the kidneys. Checking blood sugars daily and working to keep levels in normal ranges may prevent CKD from worsening. Ask your doctor and dietitian for help with managing blood sugar levels if levels are out of range.

Blood sugar level goals for people with diabetes:

  • Fasting: Less than 100
  • Before meal: 70-130
  • After meal (1-2 hours): less than 180
  • Before exercise: If you take insulin, at least 100
  • Bedtime: 100-140

Early CKD is typically “silent” where signs are not evident. For those fortunate enough to be diagnosed in the early stages of CKD, lifestyle changes and monitoring blood pressure regularly (if you have diabetes, blood sugars too) may help to keep kidney disease under control.



Additional Kidney Diet Resources

Visit and explore these diet and nutrition resources:

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.

Samantha Carter MS, RD, LD

Samantha Carter MS, RD, LD

Samantha Carter, MS, RD, LD has been a registered dietitian since 2012 and a DaVita dietitian since 2017. She has previous experience in acute-care hospitals and long-term nursing facilities. Samantha finds her previous work has given her a passion for kidney disease and an understanding in complications associated with the disease. Besides nutrition, Samantha also has a passion for the outdoors, traveling to adventurous places, and playing sports (especially tennis and volleyball).