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7 Leading Recommendations on Kidney Health for Seniors

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7 Leading Recommendations on Kidney Health for Seniors

Kidney function declines with age, increasing the risk of kidney disease in older adults. Although you may not give your kidneys much thought on a day-to-day basis, these bean-shaped organs play an important role in keeping you healthy. If you're concerned about your kidneys, ask your doctor if these recommendations are right for someone with your health history.

1. Reduce your sodium intake.

Healthy kidneys have many responsibilities, from filtering wastes out of the blood to making urine. As your kidney function declines, their ability to perform these functions becomes impaired. As a result, sodium, potassium and other minerals can build up in your bloodstream. To prevent this from happening, be smart with salt.

If you use large amounts of salt in your cooking, try using herbs and low-sodium seasonings instead. Basil, cumin, oregano, garlic powder and rosemary all add plenty of flavor without increasing your sodium intake. Reduce your sodium consumption even further by avoiding packaged foods as much as possible. Canned vegetables, soups, salted snack foods, cheese and bread all have high sodium levels.

2. Talk to your doctor about your protein needs.

When your body breaks down protein, it produces a waste product called creatinine. If you have kidney disease, your kidneys aren't as effective at removing creatinine from the bloodstream as they should be. As a result, your doctor may recommend that you reduce your protein intake.

How much protein you should consume depends on factors, such as your weight and current level of kidney function. Once your doctor tells you how much protein to eat each day, measure your food to make sure you don't exceed the recommended amount. To stay within the limit, you may need to eat less meat and poultry. Bethesda ViewPointe senior living community in Colorado Springs, Colorado, offers restaurant-style dining with a daily made-from-scratch specials, making it easier to manage your dietary needs.

3. Choose lower-potassium foods.

Although you need potassium to survive, it's possible to get too much of a good thing. In people with damaged kidneys, potassium can build up in the bloodstream, leading to a condition called hyperkalemia. High potassium may cause numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, nausea and other symptoms. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk by choosing lower-potassium foods and avoiding foods with large amounts of potassium in them. The following foods have more than 200mg of potassium per serving:

  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Oranges
  • Beets
  • Baked beans
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Bran
  • Granola
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Salt substitutes
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas

You can reduce your risk of hyperkalemia by substituting some of these lower-potassium foods:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Pasta
  • White rice
  • Green beans

4. Seek medical advice before taking new medications.

The kidneys metabolize many medications, making it important to check with your doctor before taking any new prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs. Large amounts of ibuprofen, naproxen, ibuprofen and other OTC pain medications can cause permanent kidney damage, especially if combined with alcohol. Prescription laxatives and certain antibiotics can also put too much stress on the kidneys, increasing your risk for kidney-related complications.

5. Keep your blood pressure in check.

Untreated high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the kidneys and increasing your risk for kidney problems. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, follow your doctors recommendations to get your BP back under control. You may need to reduce your sodium intake, get more exercise or take medication.

6. Have your kidney function tested yearly.

If you develop kidney disease, it's good to catch it early so that you can start taking steps to prevent the disease from progressing. To make this possible, ask your doctor to check your kidney function at least once per year. The kidney function panel, also called the renal function panel, checks for abnormal levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, electrolytes and minerals.

Like creatinine, BUN is a waste product that can build up in your bloodstream if your kidneys aren't working properly. Electrolytes regulate your pH levels, help the muscles contract and ensure your body has the right amount of fluid.

7. Exercise regularly.

Exercise has many benefits, from lifting your spirits to helping you stay strong. For people interested in kidney health, however, one of the main benefits of exercise is that it improves your circulation and may help prevent heart disease. To function properly, the kidneys need an adequate supply of blood. If you have heart disease or poor circulation, the kidneys may not get as much blood flow as they need, reducing their ability to filter waste products from your bloodstream.

Colorado Springs, Colorado, has plenty of places to exercise and enjoy the fresh air. If you can't go outside, look for opportunities to exercise at your senior living community. Using hand weights, resistance bands and other indoor exercise equipment can get your blood pumping and help you reduce your risk of a host of health conditions.

Although kidney function declines with age, that doesn't mean you have to take these changes sitting down. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian who specializes in kidney health to determine the best way to reduce your risk of kidney disease or keep existing kidney disease from worsening. By adjusting your diet, getting plenty of exercise and discussing your concerns with your doctor, you may be able to preserve your kidney function for as long as possible.

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