Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a common and growing problem in the United States today, described by some experts as epidemic. According to the CDC, an estimated 16.8 percent of adults over age 20 have CKD, and among people over age 60, the rate is even higher, at 26 percent and rapidly rising.
Since CKD often has no symptoms in the early stages, many people with the disease remain unaware of it until significant damage is done to their kidneys – damage that probably could have been prevented or delayed with early treatment. For this reason, knowing your risk factors for this often stealthy, but potentially deadly disease is very important, as is getting screened for CKD regularly if you are at risk.
Risk Factors For Chronic Kidney Disease
There are some risk factors for CKD that you cannot control, like your age, since risk rises as you grow older, a family history of kidney problems, which may indicate a genetic predisposition towards developing them yourself, and ethnicity, since African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans have higher rates of CKD. However, it is important to know that these factors do not mean that kidney problems are inevitable, just that your risk of developing them is somewhat higher than the average person. Another important fact to know is that even if you are affected by any of these uncontrollable risk factors, by reducing any controllable risk factors that you may have, you can decrease your chances of developing CKD.
Controllable risk factors are things that put you at higher risk for CKD, but can be changed for the better, reducing or eliminating their risk to your health. Here are the most common risk factors that you can change in order to protect the health of your kidneys.
The leading cause of kidney failure and kidney disease, diabetes can cause gradual damage to your kidneys, particularly when it is poorly controlled. In fact, nearly half of all new dialysis patients have diabetes. While CKD is often a consequence of diabetes, it doesn't have to be with proactive treatment, care and control of diabetes. Keeping your blood sugar tightly controlled within the target range recommended by your doctor via diet, exercise and taking medications properly can help keep your kidneys healthy.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the second most common cause of CKD and kidney failure. Poorly controlled hypertension places excessive stress on all of your blood vessels, including the tiny, fragile ones in your kidneys. However, as with diabetes, hypertension doesn't have to cause CKD if you are working with your doctor to keep your blood pressure tightly controlled within your target range – which may be done with methods that include weight loss, exercise, dietary changes and medications.
Other Risk Factors
People with most forms of heart disease and cardiovascular risk factors, like high cholesterol, who are overweight or obese, or who have poor dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles, are at increased risk for CKD. Kidney scarring from frequent kidney infections or kidney stones are risk factors, as is overuse of over-the-counter painkillers and abuse of illegal or prescription drugs.
If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about regular kidney disease screenings – and a treatment plan that can help you manage or eliminate those risk factors. Typically, routine screening is done with a combination of a urine test, to look for telltale signs of kidney trouble, such as high levels of protein in urine, and a blood test, which your doctor can use to evaluate kidney function.