Kidneys can be affected or damaged by a variety of diseases and conditions. As we get older, we are more likely to suffer from kidney and urinary tract infections. Kidney problems can also increase the risk of other conditions such as cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease and aging inhabitants. With aging there is a progressive reduction in kidney function amounting to about 1 percent loss with every passing year after the age of 40. Therefore an elderly person is more vulnerable to develop kidney failure in the face of any insult to the kidneys.
Types of age-related kidney disease:
Inflammation of the kidneys:
This is called acute glomerulonephritis, when the filters of the kidney become swollen and can cause the kidneys to fail within weeks.
This is the most common cause of chronic kidney disease in the world.
Urinary tract infection:
Urinary tract infections are very common, particularly in women and with increasing age.
Fatty deposits, cholesterols, calcium and other substances are deposited in the inner lining of the arteries, causing narrowing or blockage of the renal artery. This affect the kidney’s filters and reduces the blood supply to the kidneys, resulting in high blood pressure and reduced kidney function. In elder person this is a common cause of kidney failure.
High blood pressure:
If left untreated, high blood pressure not only increases the risk of heart attack, and stroke, but also of kidney failure.
Obstructive kidney failure-various diseases can obstruct the flow of urine from the kidneys in elderly and kidney function is compromised by back pressure. Enlargement of the prostate gland in men, tumor of urinary bladder, and cancer of womb in females tends to occur in aging population and can cause obstruction.
Drug related kidney disease:
Elderly people are exposed to more drugs and some of them may compromise kidney function. Pain killers can cause temporary or permanent damaged to the kidney if used injudiciously.
Kidney disease is called a “Silent Disease” as there are often no warning signs. People may lose up to 90% of their kidney function before getting any symptoms. The first signs of the kidney disease may be general and can include:
1) High Blood Pressure
2) Changes in amount and number of times urine is passed (e.g. at night)
3) Blood in the urine
4) Puffiness of face or around ankles
5) Pain in the kidney area
Risk factors for kidney disease:
Some conditions that affect the kidneys and urinary tract are more common as people get older.
You are more at risk of developing kidney disease if you:
1) Are over 60 years of age
2) Have Diabetes
3) Are obese
4) Have high blood pressure
5) Have established heart problems or have had a stroke
6) Are a smoker
7) Have a family history of kidney disease
If any of the above is correct for you then must take precautionary measures.
Keeping your kidneys healthy:
There are a number of things you can do to keep your kidneys healthy, including.
- If you have diabetes, make sure that your blood sugar control is excellent.
- Control high blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked regularly. Drugs used to lower blood pressure, can slow the development of kidney disease.
- If you have one of the risk factor for kidney disease, get your kidneys checked (Blood test, Urine test) at least every two years (every year if you have Diabetes or High blood pressure)
- Treat urinary tract infections immediately
- Control blood cholesterol levels with diet and medication if necessary
- Choose foods that are low in sugar, fat and salt but high in fiber.
- Do not smoke
- Stay at a healthy weight for your health and age
- Try to exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes a day
- Do not use pain killer tablets without consulting your doctor
Kidney diseases can be serious, but early detection and good management can increase the life of your kidneys.