Want to live longer? Take care of this organ
Posted November 20, 2013
Updated November 21, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — No one can live forever, but most people would like to know how they might beat the odds and live longer than 78 years – the average U.S. life expectancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Apart from age, a medical study found that the leading predictor of a long life is kidney health.
Dr. Tom Coffman, chief of nephrology at Duke University School of Medicine, says kidney disease is a silent killer. By the time a person notices symptoms of kidney disease, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss and swelling in the legs, he or she is already in kidney failure and in need of kidney dialysis.
“The main function (of kidneys) is really to filter toxins out of the blood that are produced by the normal metabolism of the body,” Coffman said. “People get sick primarily because of this accumulation of toxins that aren’t excreted appropriately. But they also have problems with anemia, low blood count, high blood pressure (and) problems with their bones.”
For most people, kidney problems can be avoided, starting with regular physical exams. The two most common causes of kidney disease are high blood pressure and diabetes. If those problems go unaddressed, it stresses and damages the kidneys’ millions of tiny filtering vessels over time.
That's why doctors often ask patients for a urine sample, so they can look for abnormal levels of protein. A standard blood test will reveal two important kidney numbers: creatinine and blood urea nitrogen, which are metabolic waste products that should not exceed certain levels in the blood if the kidneys are healthy.
“One of the things your kidneys do is handle and excrete the salt that you eat in your diet, and when the kidneys are not working properly, you don’t excrete enough salt, your body fluids expand, and that causes your blood pressure to go up,” Coffman said. “Then, blood pressure can go on to damage your kidneys.”
Those who want to live a longer, healthier life should ask their doctor about kidney function, even if the doctor doesn’t mention it first. Besides diet and exercise, doctors say it’s important to avoid taking too much ibuprofen, which can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney failure.
A note from Dr. Allen Mask, WRAL’s Health Team physician:
So what is the No. 1 predictor on how long you will live? Our unscientific poll results showed most of our viewers got the answer wrong.
As our Health Team report revealed, I shared the stage not too long ago with National Kidney Foundation President Dr. Lynda Szczech, who made this startling revelation which surprised both the doctors and lay people in the audience. A publication in the medical journal Kidney International demonstrated the best predictive value of survival was in descending order: 1) age; 2) kidney function; and 3) blood pressure. Apart from your age, the state of your kidneys is the best predictor for how long you will live.
But don't despair. The purpose of our broadcast was to highlight the dangers of a disease that many of us know little about. Hypertension and diabetes are the major causes of chronic kidney disease. Other causes include autoimmune diseases like lupus, glomerulonephritis, polycystic disease, repeated infections, obstructions to the flow of urine and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, naprosyn and high doses of aspirin. (Daily low-dose cardiovascular preventive aspirin is fine.) And some African-Americans carry a gene that can speed the progression to end-stage kidney disease.
Early detection is critical in preventing the progression of this life threatening disease because symptoms of kidney disease typically do not appear until the late stages. Fatigue, swelling of the feet and ankles, poor appetite, muscle cramping and puffiness around the eyes are some indicators to look for.
So ask your doctor "What about my kidneys?" especially if you have hypertension or diabetes. Get a blood test (serum creatinine) and don't be afraid to pee in a cup to have your urine checked. It is one of the best things you can do to save your life.
How much do you know about your health? Take our quiz and see the answers below:
1) The American Heart Association says the ideal blood pressure should be:
A) Less than or equal to 120/80
B) Less than 140/90
C) Between 140/90 - 150/100
D) Does not matter if you feel fine
2) What are risk factors for kidney disease?
A) Uncontrolled hypertension
B) Uncontrolled diabetes
C) Abuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (ex: ibuprofen)
D) Prolonged obstruction of the kidneys by an enlarged prostate or kidney stones
E) All of the above
F) All of the above except C
3) Which of the following statements are true?
A) About 40% of patients who present for kidney dialysis had no prior knowledge of kidney disease
B) Atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for strokes
C) Type II diabetes is more common than Type I diabetes
D) All of the above are true
E) None of the above are true
4) Guidelines for reducing atherosclerosis & cardiovascular disease include all the following except:
A) Reduce saturated fats and trans fats in the diet
B) Exercise 40 minutes a day for 3 to 4 days a week
C) Consideration of bariatric weight loss surgery if BMI >40 or >35 with two co-morbid factors
D) Take a multivitamin every day
5) New guidelines (from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology) in cholesterol management include each of the following questions except?
A) Do you have cardiovascular disease (ex: previous heart attack or stroke)?
B) Do you have Type II diabetes (ages 40-75)?
C) Do you have a "bad" cholesterol (LDL) level over 190?
D) Do you have a family history of diabetes?
E) Is your 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease greater than 7.5% (ages 40-75)?
1) A - Less than or equal to 120/80
2) E - All of the above
3) D - All of the above are true
4) D - Take a multivitamin every day
5) D - Do you have a family history of diabetes?