As our bodies and organs get older, they undergo a number of changes, which can impact our daily life and overall wellbeing. Aging is classified by the gradual decline of cellular function and structural changes that occur in the organ systems, including the kidneys, and as we get older, it becomes more and more important to understand how our bodies work so we can keep them strong and healthy for years to come.
The kidneys’ main job is to clean the blood and filter toxins out of the body through urine. And over time, the risk for complications like diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease (CKD) increases. Kidney disease is a condition in which the kidneys gradually lose their ability to filter wastes out of the blood. CKD can occur at any age, but those who are over the age of 60 are more likely to develop kidney disease or related conditions. In order to best protect your kidney health, it helps to understand exactly what happens to your kidneys as they age.
How Age Affects Kidneys’ Structure
Clinical research suggests that kidneys undergo a variety of structural and functional changes as they age, and these changes happen regardless of kidney disease. However, they may have an impact on the severity of CKD or its progression, if it develops.
Age causes our organs and cells to weaken and evolve, by nature of functioning over time. Whether CKD develops as a result of age or other factors, and while you cannot reverse the physiological effects of aging, the proper care can help prevent further kidney decline or damage as you live a full, vibrant life.
How Age Affects Kidneys’ Function
Since the structure of kidneys changes with age, so does their functionality and ability to do their job as efficiently as they used to. As the structure and cells of your kidneys begin to decline over years, your kidneys become more vulnerable to damage and start to lose their ability to produce hormones that your body needs to function properly.
If your kidneys become damaged over time, they may not be able to filter wastes and fluids out of the blood efficiently, causing a buildup of toxins that may cause even more damage. The harder your kidneys have to work to do their job, the more likely they are to accumulate more damage.
How to Assess Kidney Function
Keeping an eye on your kidney health as you age can help you protect your remaining kidney function. If you are 65 or older, consider talking to your doctor about scheduling a Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test. Your estimated GFR is a measurement of how well your kidneys are working to clean your blood. This test measures how much creatinine – a waste produced by your muscles – is in your blood. The amount of creatinine remaining in your blood will help your doctor determine if your kidneys are working too hard to filter it out, which could be a sign of kidney damage.
Causes of high creatinine levels can vary from person to person, depending on your age, gender, ethnicity, medical history and other factors. Since it’s so subjective, the results from your eGFR test will help your doctor determine if you’re at risk for CKD, or identify which stage you’re in if it has already developed.
How to Promote Kidney Health
Keeping your kidneys top-of-mind when selecting the foods you eat and determining the activities you do can help you thrive as you get older. By managing your blood sugar, blood pressure, as well as following a healthy diet and getting plenty of water and exercise can promote kidney health throughout your lifetime. A kidney-friendly eating plan can often include:
- Chicken, turkey or other low-protein meats
- Grains and whole wheats
- Most fruits and vegetables
- Certain nuts
- Olive oil
To ensure your body is functioning at its best, make sure you do your research and talk to your doctor about how to look out for your kidney health. With a little extra attention spent on your health, your body will carry you through your best years with plenty of life energy.