While most Americans can recite their cholesterol numbers and know their personal risk for heart disease, few have any idea if their kidneys are performing their job properly. Yet there is actually a test that measures kidney function, and since kidney disease can be silent without any symptoms, it's important to know the kidney score.
Healthy kidneys that work at 100% capacity regulate blood pressure, filter wastes and toxins from the blood and help maintain strong bones.
"In order to measure how well the kidneys are functioning, doctors perform the glomerular filtration rate—or GFR test. GFR is calculated from the results of a blood test for creatinine, or buildup of waste products, as well as age, race, gender and other factors. The earlier kidney disease is detected, the better the chance of slowing or stopping its progression. In other words, knowing your GFR can save your life," says Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, Chief Medical Officer for the National Kidney Foundation.
“Anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of either of these conditions or kidney failure is at risk for developing kidney disease and must get his GFR checked on a yearly basis,” continues Vassalotti. “It’s a relatively easy test to perform."
According to Vassalotti, it’s also important to have a simple urine test to check for a type of protein called albumin, since protein in the urine is an early indicator of kidney disease.
What the Numbers Mean
Although it may sound complicated, understanding GFR results is as easy as knowing a number and what it signifies in terms of kidney function. If GFR is over 90, the kidneys are healthy and functioning normally. A kidney score of 60-89 means the person should be monitored, and if GFR scores falls to less than 60 for a three-month period, that is an indicator of chronic kidney disease.
More than 37 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and most don’t know it. More than 381,000 depend on dialysis to treat kidney failure and every two hours, somebody dies while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
The National Kidney Foundation offers free screenings for those at risk around the country through its Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP). To find a screening near you click here.