KIDNEY health plays a pivotal role in our overall well-being, and as we age, understanding the connection between ageing and kidney function becomes crucial. Kedah Medical Centre consultant nephrologist Dr Syed Faisal Taha believes in the power of preventive care for maintaining healthy kidneys in the role of early detection and intervention.
Let's explore how to age gracefully with optimal kidney health.
How ageing affects kidney health
Ageing is an intricate journey marked by a series of physiological changes, and our kidneys
are not exempt from this process. As we age, several notable alterations in kidney structure
and function become evident. Understanding these age-related changes is essential in appreciating the impact of ageing on kidney health.
Dr Syed: “One of the primary age-related changes in kidney function is a gradual decline in glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a measure of how efficiently the kidneys filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. Reduced GFR implies that the kidneys filter blood more slowly, potentially leading to waste buildup in the bloodstream, which becomes even more taxing for your kidneys.”
Age-related changes impacting kidneys
As we get older, our kidneys face increased vulnerability to hypertension and diabetes, prevalent conditions that detrimentally affect their function. Other underlying conditions like atherosclerosis can also compound the issue by impeding blood flow to these vital organs. Meanwhile, hypertension in ageing damages renal blood vessels, reducing blood flow and impairing the kidneys' ability to filter waste and regulate fluids, ultimately compromising kidney function.
Structural changes within the kidneys, including a reduction in nephron number and size, contribute to a diminished glomerular filtration rate (GFR). This decline in GFR, combined with a potential loss of concentrating ability, elevates the risk of fluid imbalances.
Dr Syed says that “the whole idea behind managing chronic diseases is by retarding its progression. For instance, with blood pressure, if you manage to remain within the healthy level, that can reduce the likelihood of protein leakage (proteinuria). The right medication is needed for this.”
Preventative measures for healthy ageing
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins supports kidney health, regular exercise improves blood flow to the kidneys while adequate hydration aids in flushing toxins. Meanwhile, smoking cessation and moderate alcohol intake also support kidney well-being in the long run.
Dr Syed recommends going for annual health check-ups once you turn 40 to take proactive kidney care and to safeguard your renal health in later years as “regular check-ups aid early issue detection which become key in spotting and stopping chronic kidney disease (CKD)”.
Early detection and effective intervention
Early detection of kidney issues through regular screening and diagnostic tests is pivotal in managing kidney health in older age. These tests, including blood and urine assessments, offer insights into your kidney function and potential problems.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is common in ageing individuals, marked by a gradual loss of kidney function. It often coexists with age-related conditions like hypertension and diabetes.
Early detection through regular screening is vital for intervention and addressing risk factors.
On the other hand, Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), a sudden decline in kidney function, is more prevalent in older adults due to multiple chronic conditions and medications. AKI causes complications, making early detection crucial. Monitoring kidney function, addressing underlying causes and maintaining hydration can often reverse AKI.
Treatment considerations in older adults
Healthcare providers tailor treatment to older adults, considering age-related factors, aiming for optimal outcomes with minimal side effects. Regular monitoring ensures ongoing kidney health surveillance, contributing to a healthier, more fulfilling life in later years.
Patients with CKD may adopt a low protein diet (LPD). The LPD is an important part of slowing down the progression of CKD. Keto Acids Therapy (KAT) is advisable to be taken along
with LPD for the management of CKD. It reduces the amount of urea circulating in the body, reduces proteinuria and slows the progression of CKD.
Tips for optimal kidney health
Dr Syed also shares the following tips for optimal kidney health in old age.
> Adequate hydration: Drinking sufficient water helps flush out toxins and also prevent kidney stones. He recommends drinking at least two litres of water a day.
> Medication and supplement safety: Some medications or supplements can harm the kidneys, especially with prolonged use. Consultation with healthcare professionals is essential to ensure your medication is suitable for your age group.
> Blood pressure management: Keeping blood pressure within a healthy range through medication, if necessary, and lifestyle adjustments is vital in preventing kidney damage.
Routine monitoring and compliance with prescribed treatments are crucial.
> Diabetes control: For individuals with diabetes, careful management of blood sugar levels is essential. Dr Syed notes that it’s important to speak with your physician to find the right medication and dietary regimen as you get older.
He also mentions that taking care of your mental health will play a big role in your overall wellbeing too.
More information on how to protect your kidneys at www.chronic-kidney-disease.com.