As if the symptoms—pain, nausea, bloody urine—weren’t bad enough, new research finds that kidney stones can hurt the heart, too. Here’s help
If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, we bet you never want to get one again. Never had one? Consider yourself lucky—and try to keep it that way. The stones, which are small mineral and acid salt masses that form in the kidneys, aren’t just painful to pass. They can harm the heart, too. New research found women who have kidney stones are significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, though the exact mechanism is unclear.
Unfortunately, some of the things that increase your risk of having the stones, like eating a high-protein, low-carb diet and struggling to stay hydrated, come with the territory of being fit. The good news: There are four easy things you can do to stop the stones in their tracks.
Women who pack their diets with fiber, fruits, and vegetables are up to a 22 percent less likely to develope kidney stones than those who skimp on these staples, according to research in The Journal of Urology. Just adding two portions of fruits and vegetables and 12 grams of fiber a day (about the amount in a cup of black beans) to your diet can make a difference, the study authors say. (Struggling to meet your quota? These 6 Clever New Products Make Eating Veggies Easier.)
Some fruits and veggies, including juicing favorites like beets and spinach, contain oxalates, compounds that bind with calcium in the body to form what are called calcium oxalate kidney stones (makes sense). If you’ve already had a kidney stone or are at high risk for developing one, your doctor may suggest avoiding these and other oxalate-rich foods, like rhubarb, strawberries, and nuts.
A word of caution for fans of the low-carb, high-protein diet: They increase the amount of acid in your urine, which may encourage kidney stones to form, researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center found. The study authors didn’t recommend a specific upper limit that’s safe to consume, and other research indicates moderate protein intake may be fine—but it couldn’t hurt to say no to seconds on the jerky. (Another risk of high-protein diets: they’re Linked to Cancer, Death, Study Finds.)
The more watered-down your urine is and the faster it’s flushed (ha!) out of your body, the lower your chances of developing stones. The American College of Physicians suggests drinking enough to produce 2 liters of urine a day. (Or go by the "clear, not yellow" rule.) Any liquid works (even beer!), though water’s best. And you should avoid grapefruit and cranberry juice (they’re high in oxalates), tomato juice (it’s high in sodium, which increases risk of kidney stones), and sugary beverages. Drinking just one sugar-sweetened soda a day boosts your risk by 23 percent, recent research shows. (Learn how to cut back—and Everything else You Need to Know About Sugar—here.)