The kidneys are among the most amazing organs in the human body, as well as being one of the most important. So to raise awareness, the National Kidney Foundation has declared that March is National Kidney Month and is spreading the word about how to take care of your kidneys.
The kidneys’ job is to continuously filter waste and extra water from your blood, then send it to your bladder to be expelled as urine. Every day, the average person’s kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood, removing approximately two quarts of waste. Considering that, on average, each of us has about five quarts of blood circulating throughout our bodies, that means every drop of blood cycles through the kidneys about 40 times in a typical day.
In addition to cleaning the blood, the kidneys also perform an impressive range of critical functions, including:
- Moderating blood pressure by regulating the amount of water in the blood
- Maintaining the balance of acids and bases in the blood and tissues, as well as other chemicals like electrolytes
- Eliminating byproducts from medicines and food that your body doesn’t need
- Creating hormones that help with the production of red blood cells and promote healthy bones
The impact of aging
While kidney function stays normal in about a third of older people, it starts to decline around age 35 for the rest of the population. In those cases, kidney function will get worse more quickly as we advance in age due to hormonal and structural changes. Fortunately, our kidneys are usually more than able to meet the body’s demands, so they continue to function adequately for quite a while as we age.
However, older peoples’ kidneys might not be able to bounce back after being stressed as they did when they were younger. That can lead to waste build-up and fluid imbalances, such as having too much or too little sodium, potassium, or water in your body. Other problems that can occur include:
- An accumulation of urea, acids, or other waste products
- Elevated blood pressure caused by having too much fluid in the body
- Loss of protein through the kidneys
- Low blood counts
- Brittle, weak bones
When this happens, your doctor might reduce the dose of medications you are taking to compensate for the decline in kidney function. Otherwise, these medications can accumulate in your body to “overdose” levels. If symptoms become severe enough, you may need dialysis, a process whereby a machine filters your blood for you.
Protecting your kidneys
While aging can cause a decline in your kidney function, there are specific steps you can take to protect your kidneys, slowing down the process. The first is to know the symptoms that can occur as your kidneys start to weaken. They include excessive urination at night, frequent fatigue, and increased thirst, as well as chronic problems managing diabetes or high blood pressure. Some people also develop skin rashes caused by the build-up of impurities in their bodies.
In addition, you can help your kidneys by following a few health-related steps, such as:
- Eat a healthy diet (consult with a nutritionist or a dietitian first, though, because certain foods are more difficult for the kidneys to process, especially those with high salt or potassium content)
- Monitor chronic medical issues, like diabetes, heart issues, and high blood pressure
- Get started on a regular exercise routine
- Talk to your doctor about the pain relief medication you use, including over-the-counter medications
As we age, kidney disease becomes a more common risk, with 100,000 new diagnoses of end-stage renal disease per year. And every year, nearly 400,000 patients are maintained on dialysis, while about 18,000 receive a kidney transplant. So talk to your doctor about your risks and what you can do to protect your kidneys.malegra