Kidney Problems for the Elderly

Poor kidney function has increased in the elderly in the past two decades

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Kidney function tends to decline as you get older, and for some individuals, this eventually could lead to kidney disease or even kidney failure. Because of this, it's very important for the elderly to keep track of kidney function.

A recent study found an increase in the percentage of seniors (80 years of age or older) with kidney problems from 1988 to 2010, based on national data.

The study authors noted that if kidney problems are caught early, it can help prevent the problem from getting worse or leading to other problems like heart disease.

"Reduce your salt intake to help keep kidneys healthy."

This research was led by C. Barrett Bowling, MD, MSPH, with the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The research team estimated the prevalence of chronic kidney disease in individuals 80 years of age or older.

Chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidneys are not working properly. A glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test tells how well a person's kidney is working by measuring how well it filters a waste substance called creatinine. Properly functioning kidneys will have a GFR ranging between 90-120 mL/min/1.73 m2. A rate below 60 mL/min/1.73 m2 is a sign of chronic kidney disease.

According to the National Kidney Function, GFR decreases with age, so normal GFR levels for older people are expected to be lower. With data lacking on the prevalence of chronic kidney disease in older patients, these researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988-1994 and 1999-2010 to estimate the number of older individuals with chronic kidney disease.

The final sample included 2,986 patients.

The researchers found that the percentage of patients with a GFR of 60 mL/min/1.73 m2 or less (a sign of chronic kidney disease) increased from 1988 to 2010.

Between 1988 and 1994, 40.5 percent of older patients had chronic kidney disease. Between 1999 and 2004, 49.9 percent of older patients had chronic kidney disease, and this percentage rose to 51.2 percent between 2005 and 2010.

A similar increase was seen for the percentage of older patients with a GFR of 45 mL/min/1.73 m2 or less. The number of older patients with a GFR level that low increased from 14.3 percent to 21.7 percent between 1988 and 2010.

These trends remained statistically significant even after the researchers took into account demographic factors like gender and race/ethnicity, and the presence of other conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

The study authors noted that chronic kidney disease can lead to a number of other health conditions including heart disease and diabetes. Consequently, it is critical to identify and address kidney problems as soon as possible. Early identification of kidney problems can also prevent kidney disease from progressing and ultimately leading to kidney failure.

The study authors concluded that, based on their findings, there is a need for efforts to address this increasing trend of kidney problems in the elderly.

This study was published on September 24 in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

Some of the study authors reported potential conflicts of interest with agencies including the US Department of Affairs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Review Date: 
September 23, 2013
Last Updated:
September 25, 2013