Race, Ethnicity, & Kidney Disease

Thirty-three percent of American adults are at risk for kidney disease.

Yes, one in three people.

If you are African American, Hispanic, Asian American, Pacific Islanders, Native American, or an Alaska Native, you may be at an increased risk for kidney disease.

African Americans are 3 times more likely and Hispanics are 1½ times more likely to have kidney failure compared to White Americans.

Researchers do not fully understand why minorities are at a higher risk for kidney disease. However, minorities have much higher rates of high blood pressurediabetesobesity and heart disease, all of which increase the risk for kidney disease. Access to healthcare may also play a role.

The key is to find kidney disease and understand the risk factors before the trouble starts. Regular testing for everyone is important and is especially important for people at risk.

What is kidney disease?

Healthy kidneys have many important jobs. They remove waste products and extra water from your body, help make red blood cells, help keep your bones healthy and help control blood pressure.
When you have kidney disease, kidney damage keeps the kidneys from doing these important jobs the way they should. Kidney damage may be due to a physical injury or a disease like diabetes, high blood pressure, or other health problems.
If you have kidney disease, you may need to take medicines, limit salt and certain foods in your diet, get regular exercise, and more.
Finding and treating your kidney disease early can help slow or even stop kidney disease from getting worse. But if your kidney disease gets worse, it can lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.

Can anyone get kidney disease?

Yes, anyone can get kidney disease at any age. However, some people are more likely than others to get it.
These are the 5 main risk factors of kidney disease:

Other important risk factors for kidney disease:

  • African American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian, or Pacific Islander heritage
  • Age 60 or older
  • Low birth weight      
  • Prolonged use of NSAIDs, a type of painkillers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Lupus, other autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones
Knowing if you are at risk for kidney disease is the first step to leading a healthier life. We’ve made it easier than ever to know your risk.
It takes just a minute to take our Kidney Risk Quiz and find out if you are at risk for developing kidney disease.

Why are minorities at greater risk for kidney disease?

Some minorities are more likely to have diabetes as compared to White Americans. In fact, 13% of African Americans and 10% of Hispanics have been diagnosed with diabetes. Native American and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to have diabetes as White Americans. Having diabetes can lead to kidney disease and kidney failure.
The rates of kidney failure caused by diabetes have doubled in Asian Americans ages 30-39 and increased 30% in Native Americans since 2000. Diabetes also causes kidney failure more often in Hispanics than in White Americans.
High blood pressure is also a serious problem for minorities. High blood pressure strikes 1 out of 3 African Americans, one of the highest rates in the world. Nearly 1 in 4 Hispanics has high blood pressure and most do not know that high blood pressure can cause kidney disease.

How does healthcare access play a role?

Minorities may have less access to healthcare than other Americans. For example, nearly 2 out of 5, Hispanics, 1 out of 4 African Americans, and 1 out of 3 Native Americans and Alaska Natives are uninsured.
Many minorities do not even know they have kidney disease until it's in the latest stages. By then it is too late to slow or stop the kidney damage from getting worse.

What can I do to prevent kidney disease?

First, see if you are at risk by taking our one-minute quiz at MinuteForYourKidneys.org.
Not all minorities will get kidney disease. And not everyone who has diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, older age, or a family history of kidney disease will get it. But if you have any of these risk factors you should:
Get tested for kidney disease. There are two simple tests for kidney disease:
  • A simple urine test checks to see if you have protein in your urine. Your body needs protein. But it should be in the blood, not the urine. Having a small amount of protein in your urine may mean that your kidneys are not filtering your blood well enough. This can be an early sign of kidney disease.
  • A simple blood test for GFR, which stands for glomerular filtration rate. Your GFR number tells you how well your kidneys are working. The lab estimates your GFR using a simple blood test called creatinine (a waste product), along with your age, race, and gender.

Get tested for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If you don't know whether you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, it's important for you to find out.

Live a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to exercise, eat a healthy diet, lose weight if needed, avoid smoking, and limit alcohol. A healthy lifestyle can keep you from getting kidney disease, and it can also help slow or stop kidney disease from getting worse. Read our 6-Step guide to protecting your kidney health.

If you would like more information, please contact us.


© 2020 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.