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Coronavirus can cause acute kidney damage in over a third of patients, says study

A new study conducted by New York-based healthcare provider Northwell Health found that over a third of patients treated for COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the Wuhan coronavirus, developed acute kidney injury.

“We found in the first 5,449 patients admitted, 36.6% developed acute kidney injury,” said co-author Kenar Jhaveri in a statement.

In their report, which was published in the journal Kidney International, the team also noted that nearly 15 percent of patients who developed acute kidney injury needed dialysis.

Acute kidney injury is the sudden onset of kidney failure or kidney damage within a few hours or days. This causes a buildup of waste products in the blood, which can affect other organs in the body.

The Northwell Health study is the largest to date to investigate how the coronavirus attacks the kidneys of COVID-19 patients. Jhaveri added that the study could help health workers prepare for future severe cases among COVID-19 patients. As of press time, the coronavirus has infected over 4.5 million people and caused 310,010 deaths over the world.

The researchers looked at medical records of over 5,000 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital between March 1 and April 5. They found that 37.3 percent of patients were either admitted with acute kidney disease or developed it within 24 hours of admission.

Nearly 90 percent of COVID-19 patients requiring ventilators developed acute kidney injury, compared to 21.7 percent in non-ventilated patients. Severe acute kidney injury often developed in COVID-19 patients who were very ill. (Related: Ibuprofen may increase susceptibility to the coronavirus, new study says; experts also link infectious complications to its use.)

“It’s not specific to COVID-19. It’s more related to how sick you are,” Jhaveri explained.

Maintain healthy kidneys with these natural steps

Fortunately, there are ways to boost kidney health, even amid the coronavirus. Here are some natural steps you can do to make sure your kidneys are in top shape.

Eat healthy foods

Eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables can provide the body – including the kidneys – with many health benefits. But it’s worth noting to look at how these foods are seasoned: Having meals with too much salt and added sugars can wreak havoc on your kidneys.

Instead of using salt, go for a mix of spices to bring flavor to your foods. But if you must have salt in your diet, aim for no more than 2,300 mg (or less than half a teaspoon) a day. A good alternative is pink Himalayan salt, which also contains minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Be active

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following levels of physical activity in a week.

  • A total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (e.g., brisk walking or ballroom dancing, to name a few), or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (e.g., running or heavy yard work)
  • At least two days of muscle-strengthening activities (e.g., lifting weights or carrying heavy loads)

While adding more physical activity can help you keep fit, people who are looking to start exercising from a sedentary lifestyle, as well as those with underlying conditions, should work with their healthcare provider to create a plan that’s right for them.

Get enough sleep

A good night’s sleep is also important to kidney health. According to Dr. Ciaran McMullan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, kidney function is regulated by the body’s sleep-wake cycle. In fact, research has shown that people with chronic kidney disease who sleep less have faster kidney function decline.

“The sleep-wake cycle … helps coordinate the kidneys’ workload over 24 hours. Nocturnal patterns can affect chronic kidney disease and that people who sleep less usually have faster kidney function decline,” he told an interview with the National Kidney Foundation.

Stop smoking

Experts have found that smokers are four times more likely to develop kidney failure than non-smokers. In addition, smoking increases blood pressure and heart rate, and promotes fatty deposits in the arteries.

Aside from being at risk of kidney failure, smokers are also more likely to need intensive treatment when they develop COVID-19, according to early studies on the disease. has more healthy foods that can help keep the coronavirus at bay.

Sources include: 1 [PDF] 2

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