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6-Step Guide to Protecting Kidney Health

33% of adults in the United States are at risk for kidney disease. That’s 1 in 3 people.

Kidney disease is a major public health concern. Kidney disease often goes undetected until it is very advanced. Unfortunately, this is when someone would need dialysis or a transplant.

The key is to find kidney disease before the trouble starts. Regular testing for everyone is important, but it is especially important for people at risk.

Follow these 6 steps to learn more about kidney disease, your risk, and how to prevent it.

How is your kidney health?

Use our online curriculum to get individualized information for your stage of kidney disease.

Step 1: Know These Facts

6 Things Healthy Kidneys Do:

  • Regulate the body’s fluid levels
  • Filter wastes and toxins from the blood
  • Release a hormone that regulates blood pressure
  • Activate vitamin D to maintain healthy bones
  • Release the hormone that directs production of red blood cells
  • Keep blood minerals in balance (sodium, phosphorus, potassium)

8 Problems Kidney Disease Can Cause:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Put your life at risk
  • Weak bones
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Kidney failure (end-stage kidney disease, or ESRD)
  • Anemia or low red blood cell count

Step 2: Assess Your Risk

5 Main Risk Factors:

Additional Risk Factors:

  • 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 a healthier life. We’ve made it easier than ever to know where you stand.

It takes just a minute to take our Kidney Risk Quiz to see if you are at risk for developing kidney disease. Just one minute could save your life – when was the last time 60 seconds had that much value?

Step 3: Recognize Symptoms

8 Possible Trouble Signs:

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

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

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.

3 Simple, Life-saving Tests:

  1. Blood Pressure (BP test)
    • 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 considered best. Check with your healthcare team to see what is right for you.
  2. Protein in Urine (urine test)
    • Traces of a type of protein, albumin, in the urine (albuminuria) may be an early sign of kidney disease. Regular 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)
  3. Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) (blood test)
    • This measures how well the kidneys are filtering the blood. Doctors measure blood creatinine levels and perform a calculation to find out your glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
    • Good Score: Over 90 is good. 60-89 should be monitored. Less than 60 for 3 months indicates kidney disease.

Step 5: Stay Healthy

6 Things People with Kidney Disease Should Do:

  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Manage blood sugar levels
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Avoid NSAIDs, a type of painkiller
  • Moderate protein consumption
  • Get an annual flu shot

9 Things Everyone Should Do:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Control weight
  • Follow a balanced diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink only in moderation
  • Stay hydrated
  • Monitor cholesterol levels
  • Get an annual physical
  • Know your family medical history

Step 6: Learn More

Do you need a kidney health check? Come to a National Kidney Foundation KEEP Healthy event and find out. 33% of American adults are at risk for developing kidney disease. KEEP Healthy will help you learn if you're the 33%.

Take our one-minute quiz at to see if you are at risk for developing kidney disease.

Download the NKF fact sheet in Multiple Languages: Making Choices to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Arabic
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Bosnian
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Burmese
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Dari
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Farsi
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Kinyarwanda
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: English
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Nepali
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Pashto
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Somali
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Spanish
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Swahili
  • Download the NKF fact sheet: Vietnamese

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