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Managing Kidney Health while Aging

Often lost among other causes, kidney diseases like diabetes and others are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Because initial symptoms can be minor or get confused for other conditions, many kidney diseases go undiagnosed and untreated until kidney function is significantly decreased. This is why it’s important to keep the health of your kidneys in mind when aging, taking steps whenever possible to reduce the risk of kidney disease.

Regular screenings are important for monitoring the health of your kidneys and gauging their level of function. Every adult over the age of 60 should be screened annually. A simple urine test and blood tests can identify the early signs of kidney disease, allowing interventions to be made before too much damage is done. Screenings are also important for checking your blood pressure and blood sugar, both of which can take a toll on kidneys when they’re too high. Screenings of blood sugar can catch the early signs of diabetes, and for those adults already diagnosed with diabetes, regular monitoring of blood pressure and blood sugar are important for keeping the disease in check.

Eating a healthier diet is another way to keep our kidneys functioning in optimal health. Among the other negative health effects of eating too much salt, fat, and sugar, overtaxing your kidneys is one. The organs are responsible for filtering excess compounds from the bloodstream. Focusing on eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and replacing simple carbs with complex carbs that are broken down more slowly will pay dividends in protecting your kidneys. And be sure to drink plenty of water. Dehydration can increase kidney problems, so having plenty of fresh water on hand, and drinking it regularly even when you don’t feel thirsty, will keep you well hydrated. As we age, our sensation of thirst lessens, making it even more important to remember to drink water. Proper water intake helps keep the kidneys functioning to flush out waste and excess fluid.

Staying physically active is another great kidney health tip. Excess weight puts a strain on the kidneys, and obesity compounds the problems of diabetes that already overtax the kidneys. It is recommended to get at least 150 minutes each week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. In addition to the help with controlling weight, regular exercise also increases your heart health, lowers your blood pressure and blood sugar, helps keep cholesterol in check, and improves mood. Exercise doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair requiring a gym membership, clothes or equipment. It can be as simple as walking around the neighborhood, or going for a swim or a bike ride.

Keeping an awareness of your body and taking note of any changes in the way you look or feel can help you notice problems early as well. Any sudden changes in the appearance of your feet and ankles, discoloration or swelling, can be a sign of kidney problems. It is important to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary to you, and sharing these concerns with your health care provider.