When it comes to living a healthy life as a senior citizen, one of the most important elements is maintaining healthy kidneys. As we age, our bodies require changes in our lifestyles, diets and exercise patterns to ensure optimal health. The renal system, which includes the kidneys and urinary functions, performs vital tasks that have a direct and immediate effect on our well-being.
Seniors face some unique challenges and require sensitive lifestyle adjustments to ensure the proper functioning of the renal system. Thoughtfully considering and implementing the right diet and lifestyle can ensure ongoing good health.
Some of the challenges may include diminished access to nutritional foods, issues with mobility, or medical conditions such as high blood pressure. However, seniors who live at home can take certain steps to maintain their kidney health.
The Function of the Kidneys in Seniors
The kidneys execute several tasks that are essential to survival. The kidneys remove waste, recycle recovered fluids, regulate blood pressure and balance the fluids inside our bodies. The kidneys filter approximately 200 quarts of fluid each day. Fluid that is discarded exits the body in the form of urine. If the kidneys begin to malfunction, or stop functioning altogether, the consequences to the body are catastrophic.
Factors That Can Affect Healthy Kidneys in Seniors
The kidneys are susceptible to chronic disease from diabetes, family genetics or conditions that exist at birth. Seniors are at increased risk for chronic kidney problems due to the aging process. The opportunity for complications increases when seniors have medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, or a family history of chronic kidney disease.
Diabetes can cause high blood sugar levels. This causes the kidneys to filter too much blood. After years of working extra hard, the kidneys begin to fail and too much waste builds in the system. This also increases blood pressure and begins a difficult cycle. People who suffer from diabetes can monitor kidney function by getting regular urine and blood tests at their doctor’s office.
High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure refers to the amount of pressure on the walls of the blood vessels. High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels, which includes blood vessels in the kidneys. If blood vessels are damaged in the kidneys, they may lower in function or cease removing waste from the system.
Steps To Promote Healthy Kidneys for Seniors
Seniors experiencing high blood pressure can use the following strategies to reduce blood pressure:
- Quit smoking
- Reduce salt and protein
- Get enough rest
- Quit the use of hydrogenated oils
Changes in Diet
People experiencing kidney failure undergo changes in diet, but seniors can make changes before kidney health begins to fail. There are several options seniors can use to lessen the potential for kidney disease.
Seniors can eat foods rich in:
The following foods are good options for healthy kidneys:
- Egg whites
- Red grapes
- Olive oil
Exercise has multiple health benefits. Exercising regularly can prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Exercise also helps reduce extra weight and improves feelings of anxiety or depression. Exercise just makes you feel better. Kidney function is also affected by exercise.
Seniors who live at home can practice the following exercise routines, perhaps with assistance from a caregiver:
- Brisk walks
- Household chores
Exercise programs should not be implemented until speaking with a doctor. Seniors who have heart conditions should receive clearance from a doctor before beginning or committing to a program.
Maintaining healthy kidneys is possible during the golden years. Management of diseases and conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can lessen the damage to the renal system. A combination of a well-rounded diet and doctor-approved exercise will increase the chances of maintaining optimal kidney health.
For More Information:
March is National Kidney Month, so it is a good time to learn more about how the kidneys work, and how to detect and prevent kidney disease. Visit The Kidney Foundation of Canada for a wealth of information on keeping kidneys healthy for seniors.