Understanding Kidney Disease: What Seniors Must Know
If you’re a senior, it is absolutely vital to be aware of the risks associated with kidney disease. Because kidneys play a major role in filtering waste and toxins from the blood, any damage to them can cause serious health problems.
The most common causes of kidney disease in seniors are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other causes can include age-related changes in the kidneys, urinary tract infections, and long-term use of certain medications.
Symptoms of kidney disease can vary depending on the stage of the illness. They can include fatigue, swelling in the ankles and feet, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, and changes in urination habits.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for preventing further damage to the kidneys.
If you have kidney disease, there are several things you can do to maintain your health. Make sure to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and alcohol. You may also need to take medication to control your blood sugar or blood pressure levels.
By taking steps to protect your kidneys, you can help reduce your risk of developing more serious health problems. For more information on kidney disease and seniors, talk to your doctor or visit the National Kidney Foundation website at www.kidney.org.
In this article, we discuss more common kidney diseases and the impact they can have on the lives of seniors. Specifically, we take a look at the following:
- Diabetes and your kidneys
- High blood pressure and your kidneys
- Medications and your kidneys
- Alcohol overuse and your kidneys
- Urinary tract infections and seniors
- Kidney stones and seniors
- Overview of dialysis
Diabetes and Your Kidneys
If you are a senior diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to be aware of how your condition may affect your kidneys. Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for about 44 percent of new cases.
Kidney damage from diabetes can occur in two ways: through high blood sugar levels (glycation) and through high blood pressure (hypertension). When blood sugar levels are consistently high, over time, the sugar attaches to proteins in the kidneys, causing them to become stiff and scarred. This can interfere with the kidneys’ ability to filter blood and get rid of waste products.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels under control. You should also work with your doctor to keep your blood pressure within a target range. Regular checkups will help ensure that your kidneys are functioning well.
High Blood Pressure and Your Kidneys
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition that affects many seniors. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems, including kidney damage.
Kidney damage caused by high blood pressure can lead to a number of serious health problems, including:
- Kidney failure: This occurs when the kidneys can no longer filter toxins and waste products from the blood. As a result, these substances build up in the body and can cause serious health problems, such as heart failure, stroke, and death.
- End-stage renal disease or ESRD: This is the most severe form of kidney disease. When ESRD develops, the kidneys are no longer able to function properly and require either dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to take steps to keep your blood pressure under control. This may include making lifestyle changes, taking medication prescribed by your doctor, or undergoing treatment for hypertension. It is also important to have regular checkups with your doctor to monitor your kidneys and overall health.
Medications and Your Kidneys
As discussed previously, kidneys are essential organs in the body. Kidneys can be affected by medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, taken by seniors. Some medications can cause damage to an older individual’s kidneys, while others can make them work harder and increase the risk of kidney failure.
If you are taking any medications, it is important to know how they may affect your kidneys. You should talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and ask whether there are any alternative medications that may be safer for your kidneys. Here are some common medications that can cause problems with kidney health:
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) – Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen sodium (Aleve), aspirin, and related drugs can all cause damage to the kidneys if taken regularly.
- ACE inhibitors – Drugs like lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) and enalapril (Vasotec) are used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, but they can also cause problems for the kidneys.
- Diuretics – Water pills like furosemide (Lasix) and hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) can increase the risk of kidney failure by making the kidneys work harder.
- Statins – Cholesterol-lowering drugs like atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor) can also increase the risk of kidney failure.
- If you are taking any of these medications, it is important to talk to your doctor about how they may affect your kidney health. There may be alternatives that are safer for your kidneys.
Alcohol Overuse and Your Kidneys
When it comes to alcohol, overuse can have serious consequences for your health — including your kidneys.
As we have stressed previously, your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste and toxins from your blood and body. When you drink too much alcohol, these toxins can overload your kidneys and lead to serious health problems, such as kidney damage or even kidney failure.
The best way to protect your kidneys is to drink in moderation. If you do drink alcohol, be sure to drink plenty of water as well to help flush the toxins out of your system. If you are concerned about the effect that alcohol is having on your kidneys, talk to your doctor. Your physician may be able to assist you in making changes to your drinking habits that will protect your kidney health.
Urinary Tract Infections and Seniors
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common problem for seniors. UTIs can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, and can lead to more serious health problems if not treated.
There are several things seniors can do to help prevent UTIs, including drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and going to the bathroom regularly. If a UTI does occur, it is important to seek treatment promptly.
UTIs can be treated with antibiotics, and most people make a full recovery. However, for seniors with other health conditions, UTIs can be serious and even life-threatening. It is, therefore, important for seniors to be aware of the signs and symptoms of UTIs and to seek medical attention if they suspect they may have one.
Kidney Stones and Seniors
Kidney stones are a common problem for seniors. In fact, according to the National Kidney Foundation, people over the age of 60 are more likely to develop kidney stones than any other age group. There are several reasons for this, including changes in the way the body handles fluids and minerals as we get older.
Kidney stones can cause a great deal of pain and can be quite dangerous if they block the flow of urine. If you are a senior and have been diagnosed with kidney stones, there are several things you can do to help manage the condition. Some of these practices have been previously noted regarding other kidney health issues.
First, drink plenty of fluids. This will help keep your kidneys functioning properly and will help to flush the stones out of your system. You should also avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol, as these can worsen the problem.
In addition, you should eat a healthy diet that is low in sodium and high in calcium and magnesium. These nutrients will help keep your kidneys healthy and reduce your risk of developing more stones.
Finally, be sure to see your doctor regularly for checkups. He or she can monitor your condition and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
Overview of Dialysis
Unfortunately, some seniors face situations in which kidney disease requires dialysis. Hopefully, you never face the need for this type of medical treatment. Nonetheless, it is important to understand the basics of dialysis. Dialysis is a life-saving medical procedure that is used to clean the blood of toxins and waste products. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis. It uses a machine to filter the blood. The machine is connected to a vein in the arm, and the blood flows through a tube into the machine. The machine removes the toxins and waste products, and then the blood is pumped back into the body.
Peritoneal dialysis is a less common type of dialysis. It uses a special solution called dialysate to clean the blood. The dialysate is poured into a bag, which is then attached to the abdomen. The solution flows into the abdomen, where it dissolves toxins and waste products. The solution then flows out of the abdomen and is drained into a sink or toilet.
During your senior years, you must make kidney health a top priority. Indeed, as an adult, a person should always focus on eating, drinking, and exercising in a manner that is designed to protect and enhance kidney health.