National Kidney Month
March is National Kidney Month and it is a great time to think about your kidneys and see your doctor for a well-deserved checkup.
Facts about your Kidneys:
- Kidneys filter 200 liters of blood a day
- Kidneys help regulate blood pressure, the body’s salt, potassium and acid content and direct red bloodc cell production
- Removes drugs from the body
- Balances the body’s fluids
- Releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure.
- Producing an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones.
- 1 in 3 Americans is at risk for kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure
- There are more than 26 million Americans who already have kidney disease, and most don’t know it because there are often no symptoms until the disease has progressed.
During National Kidney Month in March, and in honor of World Kidney Day on March 14, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) offers the following health activities to promote awareness of kidneys, risk factors and kidney disease:
Free Screenings: On World Kidney Day and throughout the Month of March, NKF is offering free screenings to those most at risk for kidney disease – anyone with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure. Locations and information can be found on their calendar at www.kidney.org/news/keephealthy/KEEPHealthyEvents.
Facts on Kidney Disease:
- Kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the country.
- More than 26 million Americans have kidney disease, and most don’t know it.
- There are over 95,000 people waiting for kidney transplants.
- More than 590,000 people have kidney failure in the US today.
When it comes to aging, your kidneys can be affected or damaged by a variety of diseases and conditions. One of the biggest problems as you age is getting a urinary tract infection. Kidney problems can also increase the risk of other conditions such as cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease.
Although, kidney diseases can be serious, early detection and good management can increase the life of your kidneys. The problem with kidney disease is, it does not always have warning signs. If you have one of the risk factors for kidney disease, it is recommended that you have a kidney health check (blood test, urine test and blood pressure check) from your doctor at least every two years.
Older people are more at risk of some kidney and urinary tract diseases. These include:
Inflammation or swelling of the kidneys – this can be caused by conditions such as glomerulonephritis, which is an acute inflammation of the kidney, typically caused by an immune response.
Diabetes – Damage can occur to blood vessels and nerves, even when the diabetes is well managed
Urinary tract infections – if left untreated, a urinary tract infection may spread into the kidneys. It is important to see a doctor if a kidney infection is suspected, because lasting damage can occur if it is left untreated. Urinary tract infections in the elderly can also cause confusion, agitation, hallucinations, poor motor skills or dizziness, falling and other behavioral changes.
Urinary incontinence – this is uncontrolled leaking of urine from the bladder, which can increase the risk of urinary tract infections. Your doctor should check any problems linked to passing urine, as they may indicate more serious kidney problems or other conditions, such as an enlarged prostate in men
Reno vascular disease – fatty deposits, cholesterol, calcium and other substances are deposited in the inner lining of the arteries, causing narrowing or blockage of the renal artery. This affects the kidneys’ filters and reduces the blood supply to the kidneys, resulting in high blood pressure and reduced kidney function. This is the most common cause of kidney failure in the elderly
High blood pressure – if left untreated, high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and loss of vision
Hereditary kidney diseases – including polycystic kidney disease.
Tips to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy
- Eat a diet low in salt and fat
- Be physically active
- Keep a healthy weight
- Control your cholesterol
- Take medicines as directed
- Limit alcohol
- Avoid tobacco
Kidney Failure Risk Factors
While these organs act as a delicate factory much of the time, there are some conditions that can set the stage for kidney malfunction, also referred to as "kidney failure" or "renal failure" (renal is a Latin form of the word kidney). One of the key risk factors that contribute to the disruption of the regular working of the kidneys is increased age.
The kidneys can experience a sudden change in function called "acute kidney failure" or slower developing problems that build over time called "chronic kidney failure". During acute renal or kidney failure, a number of scenarios may have caused a loss in kidney function. The origin of the issues may be endless but could include:
Dehydration or fluid depletion as a result of diarrhea or vomiting
Damage to the blood pathways to the kidney
Infection in parts of the kidney itself
Presence of kidney stones or calcified material which blocks functionality
Bladder issues which effect the toxins to have no outlet from the body
When acute renal failure is present, the symptoms normally appear in both kidneys and can be seen as:
- Blood or protein in the urine
- Abnormal blood test results for Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), Creatinine and filtering abilities of the kidneys
- Swelling of the extremities
- Increased need for urination, which may be painful
The elderly are at the highest risk for acute kidney failure when there are past medical complications such as heart difficulties, weight issues, management issues related to diabetes and liver disease.
Kidney malfunction that is acute can be sudden and frightening while chronic renal failure may develop more slowly over a number of years without symptoms even being noted. Some of the subtle indicators of chronic kidney failure would include:
- Shortness of breath as the body is struggling to carry toxins as well as oxygen
- Excessive urination at night with limited urine output
- Skin rashes may occur from impurities in the body that are building up with no ordinary way to escape
- Frequent fatigue
- Increased thirst
- Chronic management issues with diabetes or high blood pressure
Acute kidney failure can usually resolve itself if the condition is treated quickly but chronic kidney problems that result in permanent damage may require either a kidney transplant or regular dialysis treatment. Dialysis is an artificial process where a person with kidney failure is hooked up to a special filtering device that removes waste products from the body.
Remember that advanced age does not automatically mean you will face kidney failure but conscious awareness of the risk factors and preventative measures will keep your kidneys humming through your senior years.
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