National Kidney Foundation Calls Chronic Kidney Disease Growing Public Health Problem

New York, NY
November 14, 2006

Most Americans know that heart disease and cancer can be silent killers and understand that monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol and having regular mammograms are critical to protecting their health. Too few adults—and not enough doctors—realize, however, that Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is another common, life-threatening illness that often goes undetected until very advanced when it could be diagnosed early through simple tests.

Twenty million Americans (1 in 9 adults) suffer from CKD—an increase of more than five-fold since 1980—and another 20 million are at risk. Worse, today’s epidemics of diabetes and obesity could contribute to even higher rates of CKD in the future. Undiagnosed and untreated, CKD can lead to serious health problems including kidney failure (end-stage renal disease). Caught early, it can often be managed, and kidney damage can be slowed or stopped. That’s why early testing for people at risk is so important.

In preparation for National Kidney Month (March 2007) and World Kidney Day (March 8), the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) offers this 6-step primer for protecting health.

Step 1: Know These Facts

  • 6 Things Healthy Kidneys Do:
    • Regulate the body’s water levels
    • Activate Vitamin D to maintain healthy bones
    • Filter wastes and toxins from the blood
    • Release the hormone that directs production of red blood cells
    • Release the hormone that regulates blood pressure
    • Keep blood minerals in balance (sodium, phosphorus, potassium)
  • 8 Problems CKD Can Cause:
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • weak bones
    • Heart attack and stroke
    • nerve damage (neuropathy)
    • high blood pressure
    • Kidney failure (end-stage renal disease, or ESRD)
    • death
    • anemia

Step 2: Assess Your Risk

  • 4 Main Risk Factors:
    • Diabetes (self or family)
    • High blood pressure (self or family)
    • Cardiovascular disease (self or family)
    • Family history of kidney disease
  • 10 Additional Risk Factors:
    • African-American heritage
    • Prolonged use of NSAIDs, a type of painkillers
    • Native American heritage
    • Obesity
    • Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander heritage
    • Chronic urinary tract infections
    • Age 60 or older
    • Kidney stones
    • Lupus, other autoimmune disorders
    • Low birth weight

Step 3: Recognize Symptoms

Most people with early CKD have no symptoms, which is why testing is critical. By the time symptoms appear, CKD may be advanced, and symptoms can be misleading. Pay attention to these:

  • 8 Possible Trouble Signs:
    • Fatigue, weakness
    • Puffy eyes
    • Difficult, painful urination
    • Swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, feet
    • Foamy urine
    • Increased thirst
    • Pink, dark urine (blood in urine)
    • Increased need to urinate (especially at night)

Step 4: Get Tested

If you or a loved one belong to a high-risk group, ask your primary-care physician about these tests—and be especially insistent about the last one. Your doctor may want to perform other tests as well.

4 Simple, Life-Saving Tests :

What: Blood Pressure
Why: High blood pressure can damage small blood vessels (glomeruli) in the kidneys. It is the second-leading cause of kidney failure after diabetes.
Good Score: Below 140/90 is good for most people. Below 130/80 is better if you have chronic kidney disease. Below 120/80 is best.

What: Protein in Urine
Why: Traces of albumin in urine (microalbuminuria) is an early sign of CKD. Persistent amounts of albumin and other proteins in the urine (proteinuria) indicate kidney damage.
Good Score: Less than 30 mg of albumin per gram of urinary creatinine (a normal waste product)

What: Creatinine in Blood (Serum Creatinine)
Why: Healthy kidneys filter creatinine (a waste product from muscle activity) out of the blood. When kidney function is reduced, creatinine levels rise.
Good Score: 0.6 to 1.2 mg per deciliter of blood, depending on other variables

What: Glomular Filtration Rate (GFR)
Why: This is the most sensitive and accurate gauge of kidney function. Doctors measure blood creatinine levels and perform a calculation based on age, race, gender and body size.
Good Score: Over 90 is good. 60-89 should be monitored. Less than 60 for 3 months indicates CKD.

Step 5: Stay Healthy

  • 7 Things People with CKD Should Do:
    • Lower blood pressure
    • Reduce salt intake
    • Reduce potassium
    • Keep blood-sugar levels under
    • Avoid NSAIDs , a type of
    • Moderate protein consumption control if diabetic painkillers
    • Get an annual flu shot
  • 9 Things Everyone Should Do:
    • Exercise regularly • Quit smoking • Monitor cholesterol levels
    • • Control weight • Drink only in moderation • Get an annual physical
    • • Follow a balanced diet • Stay hydrated • Know the family medical history

Step 6: Learn More

  • The National Kidney Foundation will offer free kidney screenings through its Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP) for people at risk for CKD in at least 20 cities across the country on World Kidney Day, March 8. For locations and schedules, visit www.keeponline.org.
  • To learn more about CKD risk factors, prevention and treatment, visit www.kidney.org.

The National Kidney Foundation works to prevent kidney and urinary tract diseases, improve the health and well being of people and families affected, influence public policy to support the kidney community and promote organ transplantation.