Could You Be At Risk for Kidney Disease?
Learn the risk factors for kidney disease and how to keep it at bay.

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Could You Be At Risk for Kidney Disease?

Your kidneys have many important functions. They keep the blood clean and chemically balanced. They do that by:

  • Removing waste and excess fluid through your urine.
  • Releasing renin. Renin regulates blood pressure.
  • Removing drugs from your body.
  • Producing calcitrol. Calcitrol is a form of vitamin D. Vitamin D is used for bones and chemical balance.
  • Controlling the production of erythropoeitin, or EPO. EPO stimulates bone marrow to make red blood cells.

When kidneys are damaged or diseased, waste products can build up in your body. Kidney disease may lead to anemia, high blood pressure, weak bones and nerve damage. If uncontrolled, kidney disease may lead to kidney failure. Then you may need dialysis or even a kidney transplant.

More than 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease. It can happen to people at any age. Unfortunately, there are no early warning signs. However, you are at greater risk if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • A relative with kidney disease or kidney failure

Kidney disease is also more common in groups of people who have a high rate of diabetes. Those include people who are African-American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian or Pacific Islander.How do I know if I have kidney disease?

How do I know if I have kidney disease?
If you have any of the risk factors, it's important to be tested. Early checks for kidney disease can help prevent it from progressing to kidney failure. Two simple tests are:

  • A urine test that checks for a protein called albumin. Exercise and fever can affect results, so your doctor may test you several times over several weeks.
  • A blood test that checks for creatinine and glomerular filtration rate. This test helps show your doctor how well your kidneys are working.

Regular blood pressure monitoring is also helpful in detecting kidney disease.

Experts recommend that people with diabetes get checked for kidney disease every year. Talk with your doctor about whether you need any medications or other approaches to prevent or slow kidney disease, if you already have it. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease or a family history of kidney failure, talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested.

How can I prevent kidney disease if I'm at risk?
Besides regular blood and urine testing, here are some general tips to help stave off kidney disease:

  • Work with your doctor to manage high blood pressure and cholesterol. Ask your doctor what is the goal blood pressure reading for you.
  • If you have diabetes, work to keep your blood glucose levels in check.
  • Limit daily salt intake to less than 1,500 milligrams.
  • If you're overweight, lose weight through a healthy diet and exercise.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking can worsen kidney damage.

If you have kidney disease, tell your family members about their risk. Encourage them to be tested for it.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer
Created on 03/13/2008
Updated on 09/05/2013
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Kidney Disease Education Program. Keep your kidneys healthy.
  • National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The kidneys and how they work.
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Kidney Disease Education Program. At risk for kidney disease?
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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