Kidney Disease Opens Door to Heart Disease, Other Leading Killers, Says National Survey

New York, NY
March 8, 2007

People with chronic kidney disease are significantly more likely to have other, life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, according to new findings from a nationwide screening program by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) published in the March issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases. The report is released today in conjunction with the 2 nd annual “World Kidney Day” observance in recognition of the worldwide significance of kidney disease as a public health problem.

In the survey of people at risk of developing kidney problems, those who were already diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, or CKD, were also at increased risk of having poorly controlled blood sugar, a hallmark of diabetes. Compared to the general population, people at risk of CKD were more likely to be overweight, and have high blood pressure (hypertension). The survey was conducted through NKF’s Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP), a free kidney health detection program designed to help people at risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD) receive early diagnosis and treatment.

“People at risk of CKD are more than twice as likely as people who are not at risk to have high blood pressure,” says Allan Collins, MD, president of the NKF. “Among people at risk, 27% of those already diagnosed with CKD have heart disease, the nation’s top killer, relative to only 15% of people at risk of, but not yet diagnosed with, kidney problems,” he adds. “These findings suggest that CKD can multiply the risk of other devastating illnesses, demonstrating the importance of diagnosing and managing the disease in those who are most vulnerable. The individuals with heart disease and diabetes that have evidence of CKD should be the highest priority for prevention and treatment to reduce the high event rates.”

The survey included people who are at highest risk of kidney disease – those with diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of these conditions or kidney disease. The results reaffirm previous reports that show many people with CKD don’t know they have it: In this survey, 29% of participants had kidney disease, yet only 2% were aware that they had a kidney problem.

“These findings demonstrate how important simple screening tests are for people who have a higher risk of kidney failure,” says Collins. “These screening tests can diagnose kidney disease in its early stages, when treatment is most effective, saving countless numbers of lives.”

Twenty million Americans-- 1 in 9 adults--suffer from some degree of chronic kidney disease (CKD)— and another 20 million are at risk. Undiagnosed and untreated, CKD can lead to serious health problems including heart attacks strokes, heart failure and kidney failure (end-stage renal disease). If caught early, it can often be managed, and loss of kidney function can be slowed or stopped.

The NKF’s Kidney Early Evaluation Program surveyed more than 55,000 Americans across the country, all of whom carried risk factors that increased the likelihood they would develop CKD. These risk factors include diagnoses of diabetes or high blood pressure, or a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), or CKD.

Compared to the general population, KEEP participants had higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, and CKD. Obesity was also far more widespread among KEEP participants -- close to one-third were overweight, another one-third were obese, and an additional 9% were considered extremely obese. The heavier people were, the more likely they were to also have diabetes and high blood pressure, increasing their odds of eventually developing CKD.

Unfortunately, KEEP participants with high blood pressure or diabetes often did not have those conditions under control – less than half of diabetics showed blood sugar levels that fell within the target set by the American Diabetes Association, and three out of four people with CKD or diabetes did not reach the targeted blood pressure control recommended by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.

The National Kidney Foundation will offer free kidney screenings through 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 and to learn more about CKD risk factors, prevention and treatment, visit www.kidney.org.

World Kidney Day is sponsored by Abbott, Affymax, Amgen, Genzyme, Ortho Biotech, Quest Diagnostics, Roche and Wyeth.