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Kidney Health: What Seniors Should Know

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Kidney Health: What Seniors Should Know

When it comes to keeping you healthy, your kidneys do a lot more than you may realize. In addition to producing urine, the kidneys filter waste from the bloodstream, help maintain normal blood pressure, produce red blood cells, maintain normal pH balance in the body and manufacture the active form of vitamin D needed to keep your bones strong. Although kidney function starts to decline at middle age, there's plenty seniors can do to keep their kidneys in good health.

Dietary Adjustments

Before making any dietary adjustments, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who specializes in planning kidney-friendly diets. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to kidney health, so seeking advice from a professional is the best way to ensure your new diet meets your nutritional needs while keeping your kidneys healthy.

One of the most common ways to preserve kidney health is to limit sodium intake. Although the human body needs sodium to maintain normal blood pressure, too much sodium can put your kidney health at risk. When you consume too much sodium, fluid builds up in the body, increasing blood pressure and forcing the kidneys to work harder. To reduce your overall sodium intake, incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. Strawberries, eggplant, blueberries, pineapple, broccoli and cauliflower are all low in sodium — and they're delicious! At the same time, try to limit your consumption of high-sodium foods, including frozen meals, canned soups, breads, luncheon meats and salted snacks.

Depending on how well your kidneys are functioning, your doctor may also advise you to limit your intake of potassium. As kidney function declines, it's more difficult for the body to maintain a normal potassium level. You can reduce your potassium intake by avoiding high-potassium foods or only eating them once in a while. Foods high in potassium include bananas, cantaloupe, dried fruits, potatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms and peas.

Water Intake

To keep your kidneys healthy, it's important to drink enough water. Drinking water ensures that plenty of nutrient-rich blood can reach the kidneys; it also helps the kidneys filter waste from your bloodstream. Water can even help prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections.

Healthy men should aim for 13 cups of fluid per day, while healthy women should aim for 9 cups of fluid daily, according to the National Kidney Foundation. If you have kidney disease, be sure to talk to your doctor before increasing your fluid intake. For people whose kidneys don't function normally, it may be necessary to restrict water intake instead of increasing it. Your doctor can let you know if you should be drinking more or less water.

Managing Blood Pressure

Managing your blood pressure is a key aspect of maintaining good kidney health. Over time, high blood pressure can cause the blood vessels that supply the kidneys to harden or weaken. If this happens, the vessels can't carry enough blood to the kidneys, robbing these important organs of much-needed nutrients. Diet, exercise and weight loss are three of the most important considerations for keeping your blood pressure in check.

The good news is that a low-sodium diet can also help you manage your blood pressure. If you're already following a low-sodium diet for kidney health, you won't have to make many adjustments. Focusing on fresh foods instead of canned, frozen or packaged foods can help you reduce your sodium intake.

Exercise is important because it helps keep your heart healthy. If your heart is healthy, it doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood. As a result, your blood pressure will be lower. Make exercise more fun by turning it into a social activity or something you do with your loved ones. If you live in a senior living community, ask your neighbors if they want to walk outdoors or take a low-impact exercise class with you. Frisco has plenty of places to walk, including Frisco Central Park and College Parkway Trail.

Extra weight increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. If you have a few pounds to lose, talk to your doctor about the safest way to lose weight. Experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. If you have arthritis or other health issues, discuss your weight-loss goals with a medical professional before starting a new exercise program. You may need to modify certain exercises to ensure you can do them safely.

Medications and Supplements

Because the kidneys are in charge of filtering waste products from the blood, every medicine you take passes through your kidneys at some point, including over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements. To keep your kidneys in good health, avoid taking large amounts of ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen and prescription laxatives. If you have kidney disease, you may need to take lower doses of antibiotics when you have a bacterial infection. Talk to your doctor before using any supplements, including creatine, willow bark and chromium. In some people, these supplements can cause kidney damage, especially when combined with over-the-counter pain relievers.

As you age, your kidneys will get smaller, and they won't be able to filter waste as well as they did when you were a teen. That doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to keep your kidneys healthy. Making dietary adjustments, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly and losing excess weight can all help you prevent kidney disease. If you already have kidney disease, these changes can prevent it from getting worse. With support from family members and the other residents of your senior living community, you can make healthy changes to preserve your kidney function.