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Your Risk for Kidney Disease, You May Be Surprised

Kidney disease risk

We hear a lot about heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, but your risk for kidney disease is actually greater than each of these major health challenges. Surprised? I was, and the National Kidney Foundation and the authors of a new study would like you to learn more about this potentially fatal disease.

Who is at risk for kidney disease?

New data from a study appearing in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases show that 59.1 percent of Americans will develop kidney disease during their lifetime. If that sounds like a high percentage, here’s a list of risk factors for the disease:

  • Age 60 years and older
  • Family history of kidney failure that required dialysis or a transplant
  • Diabetes, which affects about 26 million Americans plus nearly another 80 million at risk
  • High blood pressure, which affects 67 million American adults (one-third of adults)

A team of experts from Johns Hopkins University analyzed data on 37,475 individuals with kidney disease as well as data on mortality risk from more than 2 million people. They concluded that

  • The lifetime risk of developing moderate kidney disease was 59.1 percent
  • For moderate-severe kidney disease, the risk was 33.6 percent
  • For severe kidney disease, the lifetime risk was 11.5 percent
  • The risk of developing kidney disease that requires a kidney transplant or dialysis was 3.6 percent (but 8% among African Americans)
  • African-Americans had a greater chance of developing more advanced kidney disease

How would you know if you have kidney disease? Symptoms of kidney disease may include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Passing only small amounts of urine
  • Swollen ankles and puffiness under the eyes
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscles cramps in the legs
  • Urine-like odor to the breath
  • Extremely dry, itchy skin
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath

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But why wait for symptoms? Given the results of the new study, as well as previous research, the National Kidney Foundation is now recommending that anyone who has any of the four mentioned risk factors should be screened every year with a simple urine albumin test. If albumin (a protein) is found in the urine, it suggests a problem with the kidneys: the more albumin, the more serious the kidney damage.

According to Dr. Morgan Grams, a nephrologist and the article’s lead author, most people who have moderate kidney disease can be managed by their regular doctor and do not need the services of a specialist. Progression of kidney disease can be slowed by following certain lifestyle habits (low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, regular exercise, avoiding too much salt or potassium, no smoking), keeping blood sugar under control, and using medications if necessary. Individuals should also discuss their healthcare provider about the use of natural supplements.

Will you help prevent kidney disease?
You can help evaluate your risk for kidney disease by taking a simple online risk assessment quiz offered by the National Kidney Foundation. In addition, if you have any of the four mentioned risk factors for kidney disease, you should consult your physician about being screened.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Grams ME et al. Lifetime incidence of CKD stages 3-5 in the United States. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 2013 Aug; 62(2): 245-52
National Kidney Foundation

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