Need another reason for getting more physical activity in 2014? It turns out that just a little bit of activity may protect older women from developing kidney stones. And that’s important since, as I noted in a May sharepost, postmenopausal women have an increased risk of developing these potentially painful stones.
So first, let’s jump to the research. The study out of the University of Washington’s School of Medicine involved 84,225 women who had no history of kidney stones. These women were participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which was a longitudinal study of postmenopausal women. This study enrolled the women between 1983 and 1998 and then followed them for approximately eight years.
The researchers’ analysis found that the risk of kidney stones was 16 percent lower in women who had the lowest physical activity level when compared to women who were not physically active. Furthermore, as women’s physical activity levels increased the risk of kidney stones continued to decline. Interestingly, the intensity of physical activity was not associated with the formation of kidney stones. The researchers also determined that eating extra calories increased the risk of kidney stones by up to 42 percent.
"Even small amounts of exercise may decrease the risk of kidney stones," said Dr. Mathew Sorensen, who was lead author of the study, in a story on MedlinePlus. "It does not need to be marathons, as the intensity of the exercise does not seem to matter." Thus, light gardening or walking for about three hours each week can reduce the chances that older women will develop these types of stones.
So what exactly is a kidney stone? According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a kidney stone is a solid piece of material that as formed in the kidney when the urine contains high levels of calcium, oxalate and phosphorus. Kidney stones, which vary in size, may remain in the kidney or travel the urinary tract. A small stone may pass through urination, causing little if any pain. However, a larger stone may become stuck as it passes through the urinary tract, thus blocking the flow of urine and causing severe pain or bleeding.
Kidney stones are more likely to develop if one of the following risk factors is present:
- A family history of kidney stones.
- Recurrent urinary tract infections.
- Having a condition that affects the levels of substances found in the urine.
- Blockage of the urinary tract.
- Digestive problems.
- Not drinking enough fluids.
- If you’re taking certain medications.
Signs that you may have a kidney stone include having a sharp pain the back or lower abdomen that may last for a short or long time, nausea and vomiting with the pain. Other signs which indicate that you need to seek a doctor’s advice include having blood in your urine, fevers and chills, vomiting, smelly urine, cloudy urine, pain when you urinate, or extreme continual pain in the back or lower abdomen.
So what if you do develop a kidney stone? Small stones usually don’t need treatment and may pass out of your system without any pain. Some small stones can be painful; in these cases, you may need to take pain medication and drink lots of fluids to help the stone pass through your system. However, if you do develop a large kidney stone, you may need help from your doctor to remove it.
These stones will be diagnosed through urine, blood and imaging tests. Large stones can be removed or broken into small pieces through three types of treatments:
- Shock wave lithotripsy, which uses a machine that causes shock waves in your body that crush the kidney stone. The smaller pieces of the stone are then removed naturally when you urinate.
- Ureteroscopy, which involves using an ureteroscope – a long, tube-like took that has an eyepiece – to find the stone in the urinary tract. Once found, the stone can be removed or broken up by using laser energy.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy, which involves using a nephroscope – a very thin viewing tool – to locate and remove the stone. This took is inserted through a small cut in the book into the kidney. In this procedure, larger stones may be broken up through the use of shock waves.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Dallas, M. E. (2013). Light exercise might reduce risk of kidney stones. MedlinePlus.
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2013). What I need to know about kidney stones.
Sorenson, M. D., et al. (2013). Activity, energy intake, obesity, and the risk of incident kidney stones in postmenopausal women: A report from the Women’s Health Initiative. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
Published On: December 23, 2013