How to keep your kidneys healthy as you age
Q: I recently was told that kidney function declines with age, and was wondering what I could do to keep my kidneys healthy?
A: As we grow older, our kidneys undergo a gradual decline, even for people who do not have kidney disease.
One major function of the kidneys is to remove waste products as well as excess fluid from the body through urine output.
The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure and electrolytes. They produce an active form of vitamin D to help promote strong bones, and they are also able to control the production of red blood cells.
It is important to keep your kidneys healthy. Kidney disease can lead to problems such as mental status changes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, kidney failure, stroke, and even anemia.
Having high blood pressure and diabetes are two big causes of chronic kidney disease, so it is important to keep your blood pressure and blood sugar levels under control.
Effect on medications
Poor kidney function can also reduce metabolism and clearance of medications from the body, increasing the risk for adverse drug reactions. When your kidney function is reduced, some medications can build up in your body and cause harmful side effects.
Reducing the doses of your medicines based on your kidney function will help keep you safe and prevent adverse effects. Therefore, if you are older or have chronic kidney disease, it is important to ask your pharmacist if any of your medications need to be adjusted.
Kidney health is related to overall good health which can be maintained by the following:
- Exercising regularly
- Controlling your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar
- Following a low salt diet (less than 2.3 g/day)
- Not smoking
- Drinking alcohol only in moderation
- Staying hydrated
- Monitoring cholesterol levels
- Getting an annual physical
- Knowing your family medical history
For those with kidney disease
If you have chronic kidney disease, you should also do the following:
- Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and naproxen).
- Limit your protein intake. Speak with your renal dietitian to get specific guidelines regarding how much protein you should consume, as this number will depend on your chronic kidney disease stage and other health conditions.
- Get an annual flu shot.
Your kidneys are working hard for you, so it is important to be knowledgeable about how you can help protect your kidneys.
Clarissa Cho is a Pharm. D. student at Virginia Commonwealth University.