Your kidneys don’t always get the attention they deserve.
While we hear a lot about the importance of having a healthy brain, heart and lungs, kidneys aren’t always top of mind. But given what they do for our bodies, they probably should be.
- remove waste products
- produce hormones to help regulate blood pressure
- balance minerals in the body, including sodium, potassium and calcium
- filter the blood
- balance PH levels
- keep just the right amount of water in the body
When kidneys are working properly, they support your body’s equilibrium. When they’re not, it can result in a host of health problems.
Kidney health and aging
As we age, so do our kidneys. The older we get, the more difficult it is for our kidneys to do their job in removing the toxins and waste products from our blood.
If you are over 65, your chance of kidney disease increases. As well, medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can have a negative effect on kidney health.
Does that mean that kidney disease is inevitable, or that seniors don’t have a choice when it comes to kidney health? Absolutely not!
While it’s true that our kidneys’ functionality naturally diminishes with time, it’s not true that aging triggers kidney disease.
Manage medical conditions
There are lots of things you can do to help keep kidneys healthy and reduce the risk of kidney disease. Drinking plenty of water – 2 litres a day – is a basic one. Here are some more.
Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to a decrease in kidney function. Managing it is an effective way to slow the progression of kidney disease.
Monitor your blood pressure
Take your prescribed medicines
Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes. High blood sugar clogs the filters of the kidney, which causes decreased kidney function. A growing number of kidney patients are people with diabetes.
Eat food low in sugar, fat, and salt
Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can help you control your blood pressure and blood sugar. If you are underweight, achieving a healthy weight can affect your energy level and how well you fight off infections.
Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day
Choose fresh produce, rather than canned or processed
Don’t smoke. Smoking can be particularly harmful if you have kidney disease.
If you smoke, try to quit.
Check out resources that can help you break the addiction. It’s never too late.
Screening for kidney disease
Experts estimate that 1 in 10 Canadians has kidney disease. It may surprise you to know that sometimes people with kidney disease show no symptoms. Many people don’t realize they even have kidney disease until it’s too late.
That’s why it’s recommended that seniors 65+ ‒ and especially those with other medical conditions – be screened every year. This screening involves either a blood test or a urine test, or both.
If you think you might be at risk for developing kidney disease, or if you want to know more about symptoms, check out this very helpful resource from the Kidney Foundation.
A special note: Kidney health and COVID-19
Children and adults with chronic kidney disease and kidney transplant recipients are at higher risk of serious illness, including COVID-19. There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:
Aged 65 and over
With compromised immune systems
With underlying medical conditions.