Seniors living in Dubuque and elsewhere have a lot to be aware of concerning their personal health. Whether they’re in their 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s, there’s always something that needs to be looked at a little closer, no matter if they have good health or are receiving hospice care.
One item, in particular, is the kidneys, which are vital organs in the body but are sometimes neglected until a problem is detected. However, by then, it might be too late for a lot to help.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice are always happy to share several ways seniors can have problems with their kidneys, along with some strategies they can try at any age to reduce the risk of problems, including infection and disease.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, the kidneys are considered the official chemical factories of the body and are charged with tasks like filtering waste as well as directing activities in the rest of the body like producing red blood cells and regulating blood pressure.
But they are also fragile and many people may have damage to one or both of theirs without being aware of it.
Risk factors for kidney damage and disease can include genetics/family history, high blood pressure, a pre-existing condition like diabetes, plus general age – the danger increases for anyone over age 60.
Kidneys damaged from trauma or other diseases can lead to a lot of problems quickly including stroke, heart attack, nerve damage, high blood pressure, and low blood red blood cell count.
If the organs stop what they’re doing entirely, it means that waste will not be processed from the blood, which travels through the whole body. This can rapidly impact other organs and lead to disruptions system-wide.
Acute kidney failure can actually take place in a few days and lead to hospitalization, even death if it goes on too long and does too much damage to repair.
Other kidney problems include chronic kidney disease, which the National Institutes of Health say more than 37 million U.S. residents have but 9 in 10 people may not be aware of. The National Kidney Foundation also reports that more than 26 million adults have some kind of disease, roughly 1 in 9, but most don’t know it.
Ways to reduce the risk
March is considered National Kidney Month, and part of the coordinated effort includes trying to educate seniors and others about ways they can reduce their risk of kidney failure. Some are easy to do, some might require some life and lifestyle changes. But all of them can pay off in better-performing kidneys and a better performing body.
- More exercise. Keeping your body moving, at least 30 minutes a day, can lead to all sorts of benefits in terms of circulation, mental abilities, and overall performance. This practice is also good for overall kidney function.
- Talk to your health care provider. He or she may recommend a GFR blood test or an ACR urine test on a regular basis, especially if you have some of the other risk factors such as age or history. This can be a good preventive step to detect something before it becomes more noticeable and painful. Early detection can go a long way in available treatment options and chances of success. The National Kidney Foundation also offers screenings on its website.
- Cut back on certain medications. Over-the-counter and even prescription medicine called NSAIDs are good for short-term pain and reducing inflammation but may harm kidneys over time. These can include ibuprofen and some forms of aspirin.
- Reduce processed foods. Some foods include ingredients and preservatives that have been connected to health conditions such as kidney disease, cancer, and heart disease. Plus, they often have high levels of sodium which also can impact kidneys over time.
- Focus on controlling diabetes or blood pressure problems. All of the above tips can also help keep blood pressure low and blood sugar levels in check. But sometimes working with a professional can offer a way to focus on all of these for the long-term.
Part of being aware of kidney changes can include looking for some of the possible symptoms and alerting your provider. This can include unexpected swelling or puffiness, difficulties urinating, more thirst than usual, or even blood in the urine.
Organizers and supporters of National Kidney Week will tell you that changing your lifestyle somewhat is a good start, including obvious things like stopping smoking, sleeping more, and trying to exercise more often on a regular basis.
Generally, once these healthy habits are put in place, they can still allow you to eat the foods you like and beverages you enjoy.
There has been a good deal of research into kidney function and disease prevention methods, which means there are a lot of resources through the National Kidney Foundation and other health organizations.