Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)

The kidneys serve several functions, but first and foremost is its ability to filter our blood and reabsorb elements that it wants to keep. This function is measured by looking at a calculation called the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). GFR represents the rate at which blood is filtered through the functional part of the kidney called the glomeruli. This calculation tells us how well the kidneys are filtering the blood and dumping the waste and excess fluid into the urine.

Unfortunately, this function is not something we can exercise or take medications to

‘improve’ but it is something that we can protect from getting damaged. Despite being damaged from medications, dehydration, infections, autoimmune disease, hypertension, diabetes and many more diseases the kidneys see a predictable functional decline with aging. Unlike other organs in our bodies like our liver or heart, which can take an insult and bounce-back, the kidneys are less forgiving. When our kidney function drops

below a certain threshold, we will need to filter the blood externally through a process called dialysis. At that point your mortality risks are broadly elevated. Starting early in kidney health is imperative if you are wanting to live a long healthy life.

Factors that affect the progression of disease in the kidneys include:

Uncontrolled Hypertension (High Blood Pressure):
Hypertension is a leading cause of kidney disease and can accelerate its progression. Elevated blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, reducing their ability to filter waste products and regulate fluid and electrolyte balance.

Uncontrolled Diabetes:
Diabetes is another major contributor to kidney disease. High blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys’ filtering units (glomeruli) and lead to diabetic nephropathy. Managing diabetes effectively is essential in preventing or slowing down kidney decline.

Poorly Managed Blood Glucose Levels:
In the case of diabetes, fluctuations in blood glucose levels, especially high and uncontrolled levels, can contribute to kidney damage.

Smoking is a risk factor for kidney disease, and it can accelerate decline. Smoking can contribute to damage of blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the kidneys.

Excessive Protein Intake:
Consuming an excessively high-protein diet, especially for individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions, can put additional stress on the kidneys and may accelerate decline.

High Sodium (Salt) Intake:
A diet high in sodium can contribute to hypertension and fluid retention, increasing the workload on the kidneys and potentially accelerating their decline.

Certain Medications:
Some medications, particularly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, and certain antiviral medications, can have nephrotoxic effects and contribute to kidney decline.

Genetic Factors:
Genetic factors can play a role in kidney disease progression. Certain genetic conditions can predispose individuals to kidney problems.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and Kidney Infections:
Recurrent or severe urinary tract infections, especially if left untreated, can lead to kidney damage and accelerate decline.

Cardiovascular Disease:
Cardiovascular disease and conditions such as heart failure can impact kidney function. Reduced blood flow to the kidneys can contribute to decline.

Obesity is a risk factor for kidney disease, and it can contribute to hypertension and diabetes, both of which accelerate kidney decline.

While aging itself is not a cause of kidney disease, the risk of kidney disease increases with age. Additionally, older adults may be more susceptible to conditions that contribute to kidney decline.

Inadequate fluid intake or conditions that lead to dehydration can strain the kidneys and accelerate decline.

Schedule today to have your kidney health assessed and explore ways to reduce the strains and premature aging on your kidneys.