When it comes to preventative health measures, protecting your kidneys tends not to be front of mind. However, kidneys play an important role in filtering toxins and waste out of the blood, regulating blood pressure, and maintaining the right balance of water in the body.
Infections, medications and illnesses can take a gradual toll on the kidneys, and some decline in function is expected with age. Kidney damage tends to be symptomless until about 90% of kidney function is impaired, often irreversibly. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to prevent common causes of kidney damage, and keep your kidneys working well through your lifetime.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
A well-balanced diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any age, and can help prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for many diseases, including kidney disease. Canada’s Food Guide provides an evidence-based approach to nutrition, based on the most recent science around optimal nutrient intake and disease prevention.
A diet that is low in sodium is especially important to maintain kidney health, particularly if you have high blood pressure. Avoid packaged, take-out and convenience food, which tends to be high in sodium, fat and sugar. Choose whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables, and moderate amounts of lean protein.
Find Enjoyable Ways to Keep Active
An active lifestyle also plays an important role in protecting kidney health in a number of ways. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes, which can cause kidney damage.
Regular activity can also help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, and improve cardiovascular health. Exercise also promotes higher bone density, which may begin to decline as kidneys lose their ability to produce and regulate key vitamins and minerals.
In addition to the protective effects of activity on kidney health, 150 weekly minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity is associated with longer functional independence, higher mobility and better mental health among older adults.
Monitor and Control Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the most common cause of kidney failure. Even though high blood pressure may not make you feel ill, poorly controlled blood pressure can damage the arteries supplying blood to the kidneys. This prevents the kidneys from being able to properly filter water and toxins from the blood, and can, in turn, make blood pressure even higher.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly, and work with your primary health care provider to find the treatment that works best for you.
Monitor and Control Blood Sugar
Diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney disease. Over the long term, high blood sugar levels damage tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, impairing their ability to filter the blood properly. Careful monitoring and management of diabetes and regular screening can prevent or delay the loss of kidney function.
Warning Signs of Kidney Disease
Most kidney disease is detected during routine bloodwork or urinalysis, long before symptoms begin to appear. Although kidney damage is usually gradual and cumulative, it can sometimes occur fairly quickly due to a combination of factors.
When kidneys aren’t functioning adequately, essential nutrients can be lost in urine, toxins can begin to build up in the body, and swelling can occur as water accumulates in tissues. You may notice:
- Changes to frequency, colour or volume of urine
- Foamy urine, indicating presence of protein
- Fatigue and confusion
- Swelling of arms, legs, face or abdomen
- Loss of appetite or metallic taste in mouth
Treatment for Kidney Disease
As long as your kidneys retain some function, treatment may consist of controlling symptoms, and slowing progression of the disease.
If your kidneys become severely damaged, you may need treatment for end-stage kidney disease. At this point, treatment consists of artificially filtering your blood through regular lifelong dialysis, or receipt of a donor kidney through transplantation.
Although patients receiving these treatments can live full and meaningful lives, taking measures to preserve the health of your kidneys may spare you being tethered to a lifetime of dialysis or anti-rejection medication.
If you need support in making healthy lifestyle choices for long-term independence, contact Retire At Home today for a free in-home assessment of your needs.