Caregiver helping a bedridden senior

Though you may not notice them working, your kidneys play an essential part in your overall health. These silent organs serve as an efficient cleanup system for your blood and quietly work to keep your body free from waste. While it’s easy to ignore these small organs, you’ll be quick to notice them if they quit working and toxins begin to build up in your body. Seniors are more prone to kidney and urinary tract problems, which makes it particularly important that they take the time to learn how kidneys work and how to keep them functioning properly:

What do kidneys do?

The kidneys are two fist-sized organs located just below the rib cage that act as filters for your blood. Each day they filter between 120 and 150 quarts of blood and produce 1 to 2 quarts of urine from the waste and extra fluid they extract. Kidneys are critical machines that remove drugs and toxins from your body, release hormones that regulate blood pressure, and control the production of red blood cells, among other functions.

What causes kidney failure?

The two leading causes of kidney failure are diabetes and high blood pressure. The kidney functions to help prevent these two problems, but poor diet and exercise, as well as preexisting or inherited conditions, can cause the kidneys to be overworked and to stop functioning properly. This damage usually occurs slowly over a number of years due to the effects of diabetes or high blood pressure. When kidneys are damaged or they fail completely, harmful wastes and fluids can build up in your body, your blood pressure begins to rise, and your body may not be able to produce sufficient red blood cells.

How can you keep your kidneys healthy?

Since it’s difficult, if not impossible, to detect symptoms of early stage kidney disease, you should consider a blood or urine test at your next doctor’s visit. Early detection can help you to repair damage and prolong your kidneys’ life and health. To take measures on your own to improve kidney health, apply these suggestions:

  1. Limit your alcohol intake.
  2. Start a regular exercise regime.
  3. Quit smoking.
  4. Cut back on salt.
  5. Choose heart-healthy foods (whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy).
  6. Take medication as directed by your doctor to treat your blood pressure/diabetes/etc.
  7. Keep your cholesterol within the target range.
  8. Maintain your blood pressure at the target set by your doctor (usually 140/90 mm Hg).

Kidneys keep your blood clean and your body running properly. Seniors especially should be aware of their current kidney health and their potential risk for kidney disease. To find out if you’re at risk and to get your blood and urine checked, make an appointment with your physician. The earlier you begin to monitor your kidney health, the more likely you are to avoid kidney damage and prevent problems in the future.