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An Unappreciated Organ

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Older persons heartWhat human organ weighs about half a pound and pumps about 2.4 liters per minute and is indispensable to the body’s circulatory system?

It is not the organ I have pictured here; it’s your kidneys. And the older we become, the more important it is to take care of this “other” pumping organ. Not to mention March is National Kidney Month. So what can you do to promote the healthiest kidneys possible? The following are recommendations from the American Kidney Fund help us to understand how to take care of our other vascular organ.
1. Less Salt and Fat Intake. Steer clear of processed and fast foods. When cooking, don’t add salt to give flavor; add new herbs. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
2. Stay Physically Active. Exercise helps to flush the system as well as relieve stress which in turn lowers blood pressure. High blood pressure is as hard on the kidneys as it is on the heart.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Speak with your health care provider about your target weight. Added mass around the middle is the worst place to put your excess. IF your weight is stressing your heart, it also stresses your kidneys.
4. Manage Your Cholesterol. Watch what you eat so that your overall cholesterol will be under 200, your “bad cholesterol” (LDL) is less than 100 and your “good cholesterol” (HDL) is over 40.
5. Take Medicines as Instructed. Talk with your provider to be sure they know everything you take, even over the counter medication. And just because you don’t feel your blood pressure does not mean you can ignore your medicine.
6. Reduce Alcohol Consumption. The limits are different for men versus women, but stay to two drinks if you are a guy and less if you are a woman.
7. Don’t Smoke. That goes for chewing tobacco as well, because any amount of tobacco use elevates your blood pressure. Tobacco use also is a risk factor for certain types of kidney disease.
8. Limit Your Sugar. If you are a diabetic, sugar makes your blood sticky and begins to shut down the micro-vascular system within the kidneys. Even if you are not diabetic, too much sugar intake will either make your kidneys work harder or add to fat deposits.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to info@creativecaremanagement.com.

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