As we age, our bodies go through natural changes and we make modifications to manage those changes so we can remain healthy and active. We grab reading glasses to look at a menu. Add a few more walking cycles into our daily jog. And do more stretching to ease muscle pain.
Those are some common examples of the more obvious changes we face with age, but inside our bodies, our organs are changing too. Even though you can’t see them, it’s important to think about what lifestyle changes you can make to keep your organs healthy. One pair of organs, in particular, changes throughout our lives, though most of us are totally unaware: the kidneys.
Your kidneys filter extra fluids and waste from your system, help regulate blood pressure, and help produce red blood cells. Kidney function naturally declines with age with the steepest decline in kidney health happening after age 75. In fact, one study by Johns Hopkins University estimates that of people 75 years and older, more than 50% have kidney disease.
A silent disease
Unlike many other diseases, kidney disease is often “silent,” developing slowly and without noticeable symptoms. That means that as you age you can develop relatively advanced stage chronic kidney disease (CKD) and not know it. That’s a particularly critical – even life-threatening -- situation for the millions of people who have risk factors for CKD which can lead to end stage renal disease (ESRD) and the need for a kidney transplant.
Risk factors for kidney disease include:
- Being over age 60.
- High blood pressure.
- Having kidney stones.
- A family history of kidney disease.
Knowledge is power
Just being aware of kidney disease and the impact that aging has on your kidneys is a good start. Here are two steps all adults - not just seniors -- can take to protect their kidney health.
- Get screened for kidney disease – Here’s something you can do right away if you’re over age 60: see your doctor to get screened for kidney disease, especially if you have any risk factors. The National Kidney Foundation strongly encourages annual kidney disease screening for anyone over age 60. It’s a simple urine test that can pick up early signs of kidney damage. Catching kidney disease early means you can make lifestyle changes to reduce the strain on your kidneys in the long run.
- Stop the problem before it starts -- One of the most important things anyone can do is to eliminate, or at least reduce, the risk factors that lead to kidney disease. It all starts with self-care. Steps you can take right away include eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins; getting enough exercise; and stopping smoking. Talk with your doctor about your particular health concerns and risk factors and what diet and exercise plan is right for you.
Share your knowledge
One of the biggest problems with CKD is lack of awareness. Now that you’re in the know, share this important news with family and friends and encourage those who are over 60 to get screened. You’ll be doing your part to help increase awareness of CKD and protect the ones you love.
Balanced nutrition is critical for patients with CKD or ESRD. But managing the dietary requirements for CKD can be tricky. Mom’s Meals offers fully-prepared, refrigerated meals tailored for people living with kidney disease. Read more.