We’re using National Kidney Month to share some important information on kidney disease and kidney health! The National Kidney Foundation recently shared the shocking statistic that kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney disease or CKD, causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer and is considered an under-recognized public health crisis. Kidney disease affects an estimated 37 million people in the United States alone. That’s more than 1 in every 7 adults! (National Kidney Foundation)
How Kidneys Help Your Body
Your kidneys play an essential role in your overall health! Kidneys are responsible for:
Regulating your fluid levels
Activating vitamin d for healthy bones
Filtering waste from your blood
Directing production of red blood cells
Regulating blood pressure
Keeping your blood minerals in balance
Evaluating Your Risk for CKD
Unfortunately, many people don’t know the symptoms of CKD and mild kidney damage does not halt kidney function, so it often goes unidentified. But the truth is, kidney failure or breakdown can lead to severe consequences which may be fatal if not properly managed.
Seniors are more likely to succumb to kidney disease as its likelihood increases with age. Fortunately, there are identifiable signs of kidney damage if you know what to look for! Let’s start by reviewing the factors that lead to kidney disease so you can evaluate your risk level.
Factors that Increase Your Risk of Kidney Disease
Anyone can develop kidney disease, but some conditions increase your chance of developing kidney damage.
37.3 million Americans—about 1 in 10—have diabetes. About 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t know they have it. (CDC) Those with diabetes, however, are also at a higher risk of kidney failure. Kidney disease is often a secondary effect of other health conditions caused by diabetes. If diabetes is not managed, its complications gradually damage and ultimately reduce kidney function.
Your risk of kidney disease increases if you have a heart condition. If you have high blood pressure, your kidneys have to work harder to restore balance which may lead to gradual damage.
Seniors are at a higher risk of developing kidney disease. Like other organs, the kidneys gradually lose their functionality as a natural part of the aging process. You should discuss the option of regular testing with your doctor. Other risk factors for kidney disease include obesity and family history.
Some autoimmune diseases such as Lupus predispose a person to kidney failure.
What are the Symptoms of Kidney Disease?
If you manage any of the above conditions or risk factors, you should speak with your doctor about the possibility of kidney disease. Take a look at the symptoms below to learn more about how kidney disease affects the body. Talk to your doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the following:
Unexplained Fatigue and Confusion
If you feel tired all the time, it may be caused by a buildup of toxins in your blood due to a failing kidney. The result of this weakness may also make it difficult to concentrate while working. If you notice you are feeling more tired than usual, talk to your doctor to determine if you need any further screening.
If you are unable to enjoy restful sleep, this could also be a symptom of kidney disease. When the kidney’s filtration system is impaired, waste products of metabolism are left to float around the body. Some of these may become toxic and interfere with the sleep process. There are many reasons for sleeplessness, so it is best to consult with your doctor.
An unusual and frequent urge to urinate, especially at night, may be a sign of kidney dysfunction. Even though other conditions may be responsible for frequent urination, it should be promptly investigated to rule out a serious health problem.
Blood in Urine
Your kidney regulates what is removed or retained in the body via urine. When functioning normally, the right amount of minerals and cells are removed as waste. An impaired kidney filtration system allows blood cells to pass through which appears as bloody urine.
Puffy Eyes and Foamy Urine
A weak kidney allows protein that should have been retained in the body to leak into the urine. Excessive excretion of protein leads to swollen eyes. Also, protein in the urine causes persistent foaming and should be a cause for alarm.
Swollen Ankles and Feet
A failing kidney retains more sodium than the body needs. Excess minerals are then deposited in the extremities where they cause swelling in the ankles and feet by retaining excess fluid.
Poor Appetite and Muscle Cramping
Electrolyte imbalance, especially calcium and phosphorous, resulting from kidney disease can lead to muscle cramps. This imbalance may also reduce appetite. If you have regular muscle pain without exerting your muscles, it may be a sign of failing kidney.
What You Can Do to Help Improve Your Kidney Health
Maintaining a healthy kidney is essential for your wellbeing. Advanced stages of kidney disease are often unmanageable, so you should be on the lookout for its early signs.
There are a number of things you can do to help your kidney health including:
controlling your blood sugar
monitoring your blood pressure
drinking plenty of water
abstaining from smoking
limiting OTC medications
The symptoms discussed above are possible signs of kidney disease which should be investigated further by your doctor if they appear. Share this information with your loved ones so they can also keep an eye on their kidneys’ health.