How Seniors Can Reduce their Risk of Kidney Failure

kidney failure

You might rarely think about your kidneys, but they perform incredibly important functions. Your kidneys are responsible for controlling your blood pressure, making red blood cells, keeping your bones healthy, and removing waste and toxins from your body[1]. These organs are about the size of your fist and sit underneath your ribcage. If they are working properly, they will filter toxins out of your blood and send waste products out of you through urination. But when they stop working properly, those waste products build up in your body, and that spells serious trouble.  

As your kidneys begin to fail, there is usually no warning sign – that doesn’t come until the final stages, when the situation is bad enough to warrant dialysis or even a kidney transplant. That’s one of the reasons why seniors should have regular blood and urine testing prescribed by their doctor’s office.

As the fastest-growing non-communicable disease in the United States, renal failure – also known as kidney failure – is something that everyone should be aware of, especially the elderly with chronic conditions[2]. Anyone with chronic health conditions should consider a medical alert system that provides 24/7 assistance on stand-by, especially if they are prone to falling or live alone.

Understanding Renal Failure

According to the American Kidney Fund, 37 million Americans are living with kidney disease. Nine out of ten people with kidney disease don’t know they have it – even those who have significantly reduced kidney function might not have been diagnosed with renal failure. It is often only when people get bad enough to need dialysis that they are finally diagnosed and treated.

This can be quite frightening for those who have chronic conditions that are known to lead to kidney disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure; it is believed that one in every three people who has diabetes also has some level of kidney disease. High blood pressure is the second most common reason for kidney failure, affecting about one in five of those who have hypertension[3].

Chronic kidney disease, or CKD, is much more common among those aged 65 and older, affecting about 35% of the senior population. Of those who have end-stage renal disease, 71% treat it with dialysis, while the other 29% undergo a kidney transplant.

These statistics are scary, but the good news is that there are many ways to reduce your risk of renal failure.

The Symptoms of Renal Failure

Chronic kidney failure usually comes on gradually but it can seem that it happens suddenly, given the fact that the early symptoms are usually quite mild and might be attributed to other problems. Acute kidney failure is truly sudden and often a result of some sort of injury or illness that overwhelms the kidneys; it happens most often among those who are already hospitalized and needing intensive care.

Only blood and urine testing can definitively determine if kidney failure is occurring. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of acute kidney failure include:

·         Decreased urine output, though sometimes urine output isn’t affected

·         Fluid retention, especially in the legs, ankles, and feet

·         Shortness of breath

·         Confusion

·         Fatigue

·         Weakness

·         Nausea

·         Irregular heartbeat

·         Pressure or pain in your chest

·         In severe cases, a seizure or coma

As you can see, many of these symptoms would be experienced by those who are suffering from other conditions, so it’s easy to dismiss them as something other than kidney failure. And in fact, sometimes there are no symptoms at all of acute kidney failure, and it is detected through blood tests.

Chronic kidney disease is a loss of kidney function over time. According to the National Kidney Foundation, you should be alert for these naggings symptoms that just won’t go away:

·         Weakness or tiredness

·         Trouble concentrating

·         Trouble sleeping

·         Muscle cramping that often happens at night

·         Swollen feet and ankles

·         Puffiness around your eyes – this is especially pronounced in the morning

·         The need to urinate much more often, especially at night

·         Skin that is dry and itchy

·         A poor appetite

To make matters worse, almost all of these problems can lead to a greater risk of falls. Why? Because when you are weak and tired, you don’t move around as effortlessly as you once did. If you have trouble sleeping, that adds to the fatigue. Getting up at night to urinate more often means you are moving back and forth to the bathroom many times, and when you’re really tired, that can lead to more opportunities to stumble and fall. Even having a poor appetite can contribute to your fall risk, as those who aren’t eating enough can become dizzy, lightheaded, and weak.

All of these problems point to the fact that a medical alert device is a very good idea. If you are suffering from chronic renal failure, a medical alert pendant or wristband can become your best friend for peace of mind. And when you are dealing with a frightening condition, the peace of mind that help is literally a button push away by using this emergency button alarm at any time of the day or night can improve your quality of life. Check out the affordable options at Alert1.

The Causes and Risk Factors of Kidney Failure

The damage to your kidneys comes down to blood flow. Conditions that slow the blood flow to your kidneys are a common cause of kidney failure. But it can also occur if you suffer direct damage to your kidneys, such as an injury in an accident, or the drainage tubes of the kidneys become blocked, preventing waste from leaving your body.

Acute kidney disease can be caused by sudden blood or fluid loss, heart attack, infections of the kidneys or other areas of the body, liver failure, or a severe allergic reaction, dehydration, or burns. Some medications might also lead to acute kidney failure[4].

Chronic kidney failure is most often caused by Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Inflammation of parts of the kidneys, inherited kidney diseases, obstruction of the urinary tract, and recurrent kidney infections can cause it. Vesicoureteral reflux, a condition in which urine backs up into the kidneys instead of filling the bladder, can also lead to kidney failure[5].

These issues put you at greater risk for chronic kidney disease[6]:

·         Diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are chronic conditions that can eventually affect blood flow to your kidneys and other parts of your body.

·         Smoking affects everything in your body, including your kidneys.

·         Those who are significantly overweight are at higher risk.

·         A family history of kidney disease makes you prone to the condition.

·         An abnormal kidney structure can make it more likely – your doctor can run imaging tests to determine if this is a problem for you.

·         Having an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, can affect the kidneys and much more[7].

·         Those who are Black, Native American, or Asian American are at higher risk.

·         Frequent use of certain medications can damage the kidneys.

·         The older you get, the more likely you are to develop kidney failure.

If any of these risk factors apply to you, it’s important to work on the steps below to help prevent or slow down kidney failure. But it’s also important to consider a medical alert system with fall detection for seniors. A panic button alarm at your fingertips can assure you that help will be on the way quickly if an emergency strikes. And since kidney disease can come on suddenly, being only seconds from a friendly voice on the line ready to help can provide the peace of mind you need to live confidently.

How to Prevent or Slow Down Kidney Failure

According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are several ways to slow down kidney failure or prevent it altogether.

·         Visit your doctor on a regular basis. Your doctor will perform blood and urine tests to monitor your kidney function. They might also order imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI, to examine your kidneys. Catching kidney failure early can make it much easier to treat.

·         Watch your diet. Avoid foods that are high in protein or sodium, as these both make your kidneys work harder.

·         If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar within a normal range. If you have high blood pressure, take your medication as directed to keep the numbers within the proper range.

·         Avoid tobacco products of any kind. The negative effects of smoking on all parts of your body are well-proven and cannot be stressed enough.

What About Treatments?

If you have a chronic disease, get treatment for it and work on keeping it under control. Since kidney failure is often tied to chronic diseases, sometimes treating the condition can prevent the kidney failure from developing. And if you do have a chronic condition, it’s even more important to go to the doctor on a regular basis and get blood tests to determine how your kidneys are functioning.

Always take your medications as directed. These include medications for chronic conditions as well as those designed specifically to fight kidney failure.

As kidney failure gets worse, the options narrow down to two treatments: dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Dialysis is a treatment that helps your body filter the blood, essentially doing what the kidneys can no longer effectively do. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis, where a machine cleans your blood for you, and requires you to visit a hospital three or four times a week. Peritoneal dialysis involves a solution that flows through a catheter into your abdominal lining, which removes waste products from your body before draining into a bag. Sometimes you can get this treatment at home.

Those who are on dialysis have an average life expectancy of five to ten years[8]. If you are on dialysis, in most cases, you will eventually need a kidney transplant.

In a kidney transplant, you will receive a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor. This new kidney will take over the filtering work for your body. A kidney transplant can be incredibly successful, with 96-97% of new kidneys working very well at the one-year point after transplant, and 79-86% of kidneys working well after five years[9].

Obviously the function of the new kidney will decline over time. If you receive a kidney transplant from a living donor, your average life expectancy is 12 to 20 years. If you receive a kidney from a deceased donor, average life expectancy is eight to 12 years[10].

If you are on dialysis or need a kidney transplant, having an emergency response solution at your fingertips is an excellent idea. As always, Alert1 wants seniors and elderly adults to have the safest possible aging in place solutions.