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Hispanic Heritage Month is a time dedicated to celebrating and honoring the Hispanic/Latino communities' diverse cultures, histories, and accomplishments. It's also a great time to raise awareness about Hispanic/Latino communities' disproportionate risk of kidney disease—Since 2000, the number of Hispanic/Latino people with kidney failure has more than tripled.1
What is driving these increased rates of kidney disease, and how can you protect your kidney health? Nephrologist and National Kidney Foundation's President Dr. Rosas breaks it down.
Factors driving increased rates of kidney disease
There is no single reason a person may be at an increased risk of developing kidney disease–it's a combination of several environmental and social elements called social determinants of health.
"Social determinants of health are the conditions in the environment where people live, work, and play," said Dr. Rosas. "These factors can include transportation, housing, and access to health care. Any condition that affects your quality of life or health is considered a social determinant of health."
Historical and current systemic racism means that Hispanic/Latino people often have less access to preventative care. As a result of this inequity, many in these communities don’t receive proper treatment for risk factors like diabetes1 and experience a more rapid decline in kidney function.2, 3
"Diabetes and hypertension are the main causes of kidney disease but other factors are important too," Dr. Rosas said. "These include a family history of kidney disease, having cardiovascular disease, or being obese. If you have these risk factors, ask your doctors about two simple tests to diagnose kidney disease: uACR and eGFR."
Getting tested for kidney disease early and frequently is the best way to stay ahead of your kidney health.
Understanding higher incidences of kidney failure
Social determinants of health don't just increase a person’s chances of developing kidney disease; they also increase the risk of kidney failure. Hispanic/Latinos are almost 33% more likely to receive a diagnosis of kidney failure.4, 5 This could be, in part, due to the lack of education patients receive—one study found that 52% of Hispanic/Latino patients on hemodialysis had not received pre-dialysis care from a nephrologist, compared to 44% of non-Hispanic patients.2
While these statistics are disheartening, there are steps you can take to prevent the progression of kidney disease to kidney failure.
These steps include:
"Treating risk factors can prevent or slow the progression of kidney disease. People with diabetes need to make sure their A1C or glucose is under control through diet, exercise, and medication," said Dr. Rosas. "People with high or uncontrolled blood pressure should work to lower it. This improves their risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease. Stopping smoking, controlling cholesterol, and exercising can all reduce heart failure death. Anything that is good for the cardiovascular system is good for the kidneys."
Should kidney disease progress to kidney failure, it’s important to know about all treatment options.
Kidney failure treatments include:
"It can be very hard to live with kidney disease, dialysis, diabetes, and/or high blood pressure. You may have dietary restrictions to manage and medications to take," Dr. Rosas said. "NKF has a program called NKF Peers that matches a patient with a mentor who is living well with kidney disease. Since the mentor has gone through the same journey, it can be very helpful to speak with them. They can share their story and coping strategies."
Working towards Transplants for All
While a kidney transplant is considered the goal for many kidney failure patients, Hispanic/Latino individuals often face significant barriers to kidney transplantation.6
"Hispanic/Latino patients are less likely to be waitlisted and have a living donor,” Dr. Rosas said. “Language barriers, finances, and not having a support person are all reasons why they may not be able to get evaluated. Undocumented immigrants and people who are uninsured also have a difficult time accessing the transplant system."
We at NKF believe that everyone who needs a kidney transplant should get one! That's why we developed several programs designed to help more people access them.
"Big Ask Big Give is a fantastic program that teaches patients how to find a living kidney donor. It teaches you how to put your story out there, become media savvy, and ask people to donate," Dr. Rosas said. "The Kidney Learning Center is another useful program that helps patients understand the transplant and living kidney donor journeys. Many people think you are listed after visiting the transplant center but there is more to it. The Kidney Learning Center explains it in detail."
Have questions or need help? Contact NKF Cares, our patient helpline, toll-free at 855.NKF.CARES (855.653.2273) or via email at email@example.com. Our trained professionals are here to provide the answers and resources you need.
1“Kidney Disease Statistics for the United States - NIDDK.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 2023, www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/kidney-disease.
2Scholle SH, Onstad K, Hart A, Hwee T; National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Chronic kidney disease disparities: educational guide for primary care. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Office of Minority Health (OMH); February 2020. [Pages 6 & 10] PDF: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/chronic-kidney-disease-disparities-educational-guide-primary-care.pdf
3Young BA, Katz R, Boulware LE, et al. Risk factors for rapid kidney function decline among African Americans: The Jackson Heart Study (JHS). Am J Kidney Dis. 2016;68(2):229-239. doi:10.1053/j. ajkd.2016.02.046
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chronic kidney disease in the United States, 2021. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/publications-resources/ckdnational-facts.html PDF: https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/pdf/Chronic-KidneyDisease-in-the-US-2021-h.pdf
5National Institutes of Health (NIH); National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Race, ethnicity, & kidney disease. NIDDK website. [2016 data]. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/raceethnicity
6Purnell TS, Luo X, Cooper LA, et al. Association of race and ethnicity with live donor kidney transplantation in the United States from 1995 to 2014. JAMA. 2018;319(1):49-61. doi:10.1001/ jama.2017.19152 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2667722 Also: JAMA Network. Racial, ethnic disparities persist for patients in receiving kidney transplants from live donors [news release]. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network website. (2018, January 2). https://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/racial-ethnicdisparities-persist-patients-receiving-kidney-transplants-live-donors/ http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/10.1001/ jama.2017.19152
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