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Area Agency on Aging

Posted on: June 4, 2014

Five Steps for Preventing Kidney Stones

If you have ever had a kidney stone, you surely remember it! The pain can be unbearable, coming in waves until the tiny stone passes through your urinary plumbing and out of the body. For many, kidney stones aren’t a one-time thing: in about half of people who have had one, another appears within seven years without preventive measures.

Preventing kidney stones isn’t complicated, according to the Harvard Men’s Health Watch, but it does take some determination.

Kidney Stones form when certain chemicals become concentrated enough in the urine to form crystals. The crystals grow into large masses (stones), which can make their way through the urinary tract. If the stone gets stuck somewhere and blocks the flow of urine, it causes pain.

Preventing kidney stones means preventing the conditions that support their formation. Dr. Melanie Hoeig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, recommends the top ways to prevent kidney stones.

1. Drink plenty of water: Drinking extra water dilutes the substances in urine that lead to stones. Strive to drink at least eight standard 8-ounce cups per day. It may also help to include some citrus beverages like lemonade and orange juice. The citrate in these beverages helps block stone formation.

2. Get the calcium you need: Getting too little calcium in your diet can cause oxalate levels to rise and cause kidney stones. Ideally, obtain calcium from foods, since some studies have linked taking calcium supplements to kidney stones. Individuals 50 and older should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, along with 800 to 1,000 international units of Vitamin D to help the body absorb the calcium.

3. Reduce sodium: A high-sodium diet can trigger kidney stones because it increases the amount of calcium in your urine. So a low-sodium diet is recommended for the stone prone. Current guidelines suggest limiting total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. If sodium has contributed to kidney stones in the past, try to reduce your daily intake to 1,500 mg. This will also be good for your blood pressure and heart.

4. Limit animal protein: Eating too much animal protein, such as red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood boosts the level of uric acid and could lead to kidney stones. If you are prone to stones, limit your daily meat intake to a quantity that is no bigger than a pack of playing cards.

5. Avoid stone-forming foods: Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, and colas are rich in phosphate, both of which can contribute to kidney stones. If you suffer from stones, your doctor may advise you to avoid these foods or to consume them in smaller amounts.

It is recommended you consult with your Primary Care Physician before taking supplements or changing your diet.

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