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Kidney Health: Learn

Your kidneys are vital to your health! Your kidneys perform many important jobs such as getting rid of too much water or keeping water, removing waste from the body, and keeping many electrolytes and chemicals in proper functioning balance. Your kidneys also make important hormones that help control blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep your bones strong.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a serious health problem for many Americans. CKD can make you feel tired or have pain and can lead to many other serious symptoms/illnesses and even death. In CKD, your kidneys are damaged and don’t work properly. It’s called “chronic” because the damage to the kidneys happens slowly over a long period of time and does not go away by itself.

Untreated, CKD often gets worse over time and may lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need regular dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain your health.

While all ethnic groups can get CKD, African Americans/Blacks, in particular, are at greater risk for CKD. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two most common reasons for CKD. Scientists are studying other possible reasons for this increased risk, but consider these facts:

  • The rate of African Americans/Blacks with kidney failure is more than 3 times higher than non-African Americans/Blacks.
  • African Americans/Blacks make up more than 35% of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure.
  • Many African Americans/Blacks already know they have diabetes or high blood pressure, but many are not aware they also are at risk for CKD.

Many people are afraid to learn that they have kidney disease because they think that all kidney disease leads to dialysis. However, most people with kidney disease can be managed thru medication, diet and activity and won’t need dialysis. Many people with mild kidney disease can continue to live a productive life, working, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying normal activities -- if they take steps to stop or slow its progression early.

Awareness is the first key to better health. The sooner you know you are at risk for kidney disease or have CKD, the sooner you can make lifestyle changes and receive medical care to protect your kidneys from further damage.

Several tests may be used to evaluate for kidney disease: a urine test for albumin and a blood test for creatine. Creatinine is a waste product that forms when creatine, which is found in your muscle, breaks down. Creatinine levels in the blood can provide your doctor with information about how well your kidneys are working.

The urine test is particularly important if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Albumin is a protein that can leak from the blood into the urine when the kidneys are damaged. A urine albumin result of:

  • 30 mg/g or less is normal
  • more than 30 mg/g may be a sign of kidney disease

If you have kidney disease, your health care provider will use these same two tests to help monitor your kidney disease and make sure your treatment plan is working.

Don’t guess if you have kidney disease. Early detection is the best way to avoid health problems and stay healthy. Whether you do it for yourself or encourage it for the ones you love, get screened. You’re worth it. Now, you’re ready to ACT.

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Your emotional health also affects your overall well-being. When you’ve finished the Kidney Health section, be sure to complete the Emotional Health section.


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