Kidney Disease is Below the Radar Screen Even for Those at Risk

New York, NY (April 1, 2008) - Nearly half of African Americans have at least one risk factor for kidney disease, but less than 3% say they believe kidney disease is a “top health concern,” according to new findings released this month in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the publication of the National Kidney Foundation.

“These findings show that only a small handful of African Americans are aware of their deadly risk of kidney disease,” says lead author Amy D. Waterman, PhD, Division of General Medical Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine.

“Everyone who carries a risk factor for kidney disease – regardless of ethnicity – must be screened for the disease, so we can catch it at its earliest stages, when treatment is most effective,” says Allan J. Collins, MD, National Kidney Foundation President.

The figures of kidney disease, particularly among the African-American community, are startling. A recent study estimated that 26 million Americans currently have chronic kidney disease (CKD), in which the kidneys become less able to perform vital functions that help maintain overall health, including filtering wastes and excess fluids from the blood.

Over time, CKD can progress to the point where patients need a transplant or dialysis to survive. Every year, 30,000 African Americans advance to that stage of CKD, called end-stage renal disease. They are more than four times as likely to develop ESRD as Caucasians, and are more likely to carry the primary risk factors for CKD: diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history of CKD.

To determine African-Americans’ awareness of and attitudes towards CKD, researchers surveyed African Americans in cities across the country, asking them open-ended questions such as: “In your opinion, what are the three most serious health problems facing African Americans today?” Respondents also said if they had spoken to their doctors about kidney disease, whether they had risk factors for CKD, and what they believed to be their personal risk.

The researchers conducted more than 2,000 phone interviews, and found that 43.7% of people had at least one risk factor for CKD. Most people listed high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease as the top three health problems in the African-American community; only 2.8% listed CKD.

Less than half of respondents knew what CKD was (10% had never heard of it), and fewer than 14% could identify its most important risk factors. Fewer than 10% of people had spoken to their doctors about CKD in the last year, and only a small number of people were taking action to learn about or prevent CKD.

Participants who had typical CKD risk factors (diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history), a bachelor’s degree or higher, or had spoken to a health professional or their families were more likely to know they were at increased risk.

To learn more about chronic kidney disease and risk factors contact the National Kidney Foundation at