Obese Young Adults Risk Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease usually appears later in life, yet many obese young adults are not aware they are already at risk, according to a new study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Some of these young adults are at four times higher risk than their normal weight peers.
Why should you worry about chronic kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease is insidious; it could be developing at this very moment and you wouldn’t even know it. That’s because the damage to your kidneys—more specifically, to minute filters called nephrons—usually occurs slowly over time without symptoms in the beginning.
Once nephrons are damaged, they stop performing their critical tasks, which include filtering your blood to help remove waste, toxins, and other substances, and returning phosphorus, potassium, and sodium to your body when levels run low.
When kidneys don’t function properly, harmful substances accumulate in the body, excess fluid can collect in tissues, and blood pressure can rise. Eventually the kidneys can fail, requiring individuals to need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
What the new chronic kidney disease study found
Fortunately, there are factors that can be measured in your urine to determine how well your kidneys are working. In the new study, the authors evaluated data from nearly 7,000 obese young adults and discovered that 11 percent of Mexican Americans have elevated levels of albumin (a type of protein) in their urine, which is four times the prevalence in normal weight Hispanics.
High albumin is an indication that the kidneys are not working properly and that an individual is at greater risk for developing chronic kidney disease. The authors also found elevated albumin in the urine (aka, albuminuria) of about 6 percent of whites and blacks with abdominal obesity.
Here’s what else the researchers discovered:
- Elevated albumin was seen even in obese individuals who had normal blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and glucose levels. This confirms a link between obesity and albuminuria associated with kidney disease
- Fewer than 5 percent of young adults with albuminuria had ever been informed by their doctor that they had kidney disease. This prompted Michal L. Melamed, MD, the study’s leader and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health at Einstein to state that “clinicians and public health officials need to do more to identify and treat young people at risk for early progressive kidney disease.”
What obese young adults should do
About one-third of Americans are at risk for developing chronic kidney disease during their lifetime, but it typically appears in late adulthood (i.e., 65 and older). The fact that risk of the disease can be identified in early adulthood is important and something healthcare professionals and especially obese individuals should address.
Given the paucity of treatment options for chronic kidney disease, obese young adults need to take steps to prevent the disease. That means tackling and managing the known risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, poor diet, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. Other risk factors can include kidney and bladder cancer, liver failure, kidney stones, kidney infections, lupus, scleroderma, and vasculitis.
If you or a loved one is obese and has not been checked for the potential development of chronic kidney disease, it may be time to talk to your doctor. This is especially important if you are in a high-risk group.
Sarathy H et al. Abdominal obesity, race and chronic kidney disease in young adults: results from NHANES 1999-2010. PLoS One 2016 May 25
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