March is Kidney Awareness Month, and I know several seniors with kidney conditions who have undergone – or are currently undergoing – hemodialysis treatments three times each week for kidney failure. Hemodialysis, commonly referred to as simply “dialysis,” uses amazing technology through a machine that removes a patient’s blood, filters it of waste externally, and returns it clean to the body when the kidney's can't do the job internally.
I know another woman who selflessly donated one of her healthy kidneys to save someone’s life; and one who remains on the kidney organ donor list as I write this.
Oddly, we don’t hear as much about kidney problems as we do other illnesses or maladies, even though kidney disease affects as many as 26 million men and women, the majority being seniors ages 60+. That said, let’s review some general information pertaining to seniors with kidney disease and those at risk, as well as ways we can deter it as we age.
What Kidneys Do
I have learned that our kidneys do much more than filter toxins from blood. They help regulate the fluids in your body and release hormones to help regulate blood pressure. They are directly responsible for regulating red blood cell production and activating Vitamin D for healthy bones. That’s quite a list of vital jobs our kidneys handle involuntarily, unless problems exist.
Risk Factors for Kidney Conditions
As previously stated, one of the primary risk factors for kidney disease is living to age 60 and beyond. Yes, according to the National Kidney Foundation, seniors aged 60+ are the most vulnerable to developing kidney issues.
If you have a family history of kidney disease, heredity may dictate you will, too. The Achieve Clinical Research website states, “1 in 3 Americans is at risk for chronic kidney disease [CKD], if they have a family history of the disease, suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes.”
Diabetes complicates kidney function and negatively impacts how they do their very important jobs. High blood pressure also makes the work of kidneys more difficult because they have to work harder to release more hormones in an attempt to lower blood pressure.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
If you recognize any of the following symptoms, you should consult your doctor or primary care provider for urine and blood screenings to monitor your kidney function and rule-out kidney disease:
- Swelling in the face, hands, feet, ankles, and/or abdomen
- Bloody or foamy urine
- Puffy eyes
- Difficult, painful urination
- Increased thirst
There may be no symptoms at all, so it is recommended that you have regular doctor visits and lab work, including urinalysis, which will determine the albumin-creatinine ratio [creatinine = waste build-up]; and a blood test to measure how well the kidneys are filtering waste from the blood, known as the Glomeruler Filtration Rate [GFR].
Repercussions of Kidney Disease
When kidney disease rears its ugly head, there are repercussions resulting from damage to the vital organs which include:
- Nerve Damage
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Heart Attack
- Weak Bones
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney Failure
- Anemia [low red blood cell count]
These all stand to reason based on what normal kidney function produces. When kidneys fail, red blood cell production can’t be regulated properly causing anemia; hormones aren’t produced that lower blood pressure affecting the heart and circulatory system; Vitamin D is not activated to support stronger bones; and waste build-up impacts the entire body, including the brain.
Keeping Kidneys Healthy
There are ways we can curb the likelihood of developing kidney disease.
Hydration is crucial to a body’s health, especially the kidneys. Drinking an appropriate amount of water each day – half your body weight in ounces – serves to assist kidneys by flushing nasty toxins from these vital organs and out of our bodies.
A proper diet with specific levels of protein, fluid and sodium, coupled with regular exercise, will go a long way to helping the kidneys do their job.
Remember to keep plenty of these kidney-friendly foods in your diet:
- Red Bell Peppers
- Egg whites
- Red Grapes
- Olive Oil
If you or a loved one suffers from CKD, kidney failure, or other problematic kidney conditions, I can help by providing a compassionate caregiver to cover transportation assistance to and from doctor appointments, dialysis, or other appointments. Our services also include companion care, personal care, grocery shopping, healthy meal preparation, medication and hydration reminders, and more. I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to discuss your specific needs, or those of your loved one, and devise a personalized care plan to help make your life easier.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018 & 2019. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539