I had a client go into the hospital recently. They needed to give him some medication but were concerned about his kidney function. As we talked, I realized how much I had forgotten about kidney function, so here is a review of these vital organs, gleaned from a recent Mayo Clinic newsletter.

Your kidneys filter about 50 gallons of blood on a daily basis. When the kidneys are healthy, functions include:

Elimination of urea, a waste product of protein breakdown.

Removal of sodium and water to maintain proper fluid balance in your body

Fine-tuning of minerals such as potassium, calcium, and phosphorus

Regulation of acid-base (pH) balance in your blood

Kidneys also release hormones that stimulate red blood cell production, regulate blood pressure, and promote bone health. After the age of 65, kidney function declines, and the risk for kidney disease increases. Diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, smoking, obesity, and high cholesterol, are all factors that can cause kidney damage, but can be modified with lifestyle changes.

Simple blood and urine tests can tell how your kidneys measure up. Your doctor should look for increased serum creatinine (Cr)¬†level in the blood. Cr is a normal product of muscle metabolism, normally released by the kidneys. But when the kidneys aren’t working well, Cr builds up. Your GFR is used to determine kidney efficiency-you should know this number, it is as important as knowing your cholesterol.

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) in the blood; as your body breaks down protein from foods, it produces urea as a normal by-product. When BUN levels increase, a red flag pops up.

Albumin or other proteins in the urine. As kidney function goes south, albumin or other proteins will show up in the urine (proteinuria).

What can you do? Exercise, eat a nutrient dense diet (one that’s high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and avoid an energy dense diet (high in sugars, starches, meats, snack foods). Cutting salt has helped in some individuals, and quitting smoking is a must. If you have diabetes, careful monitoring and managing is a must. And, avoiding large amounts of pain-killers is very helpful.

I found this following eating tip for healthy seniors¬†in a fitness magazine. If you don’t already, eat more of these foods (for those of you who’ve read my blogs, this is a review).

Adzuki Beans-high in protein, low in fat, and improve metabolism.

Almond butter lowers LDL, reduces skin aging, provides vitamin E and iron.

Blueberries-a top antioxidant, best for eye and brain health, treat Alzheimer’s and cancer fighter

Brussels sprouts/broccoli-high in vitamin C and potassium, good fiber source, protective against cancers

Cinnamon lowers cholesterol, reduces infections, fights cancer and tooth decay, and is a brain tonic

Figs-high in potassium and omega-3, rich in calcium, and help protect against breast and colon cancer

Flax seeds are great source for omega-3’s, improve immunity and hormone levels

Kiwis-good antioxidant, helps prevent skin cancer

Plums (prunes) maintain blood purity and circulation, prevent eye problems and cancer

Pomegranate juice is loaded with antioxidants and lowers blood pressure.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.