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National Kidney Month highlights major U.S. health problem

Kidney disease questionnaire
National Kidney Month promotes awareness of chronic kidney disease, a serious health problem affecting about one in seven Americans. (Source: Adobe Stock)

Kidney disease is a serious – and seriously underdiagnosed – condition in the U.S. This March, which is National Kidney Month, the National Kidney Foundation urges every American to learn the facts about kidney disease, as well as what each of us can do to protect these vital organs. 

According to foundation statistics, an estimated one in seven adults, or about 15% of the population, has some form of chronic kidney disease (CKD) … and about 90% of them are not aware of it. An even higher one-third of adults with diabetes and one in five people with high blood pressure may have CKD. 

In 2017, nearly 750,000 Americans with kidney failure – meaning the kidneys have either temporarily or permanently lost their ability to filter waste products from the blood – needed ongoing dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant to survive. Nearly 500,000 of these patients received dialysis at least three times per week to replace kidney function. 

Unfortunately, new research also shows that efforts to improve Americans’ access to kidney transplants over the past 20 years have not been effective. As of 2019, about 100,000 people were on a kidney transplant waiting list, and 12 people die every day while waiting for a kidney to become available.  

Because kidney disease is often not diagnosed until it reaches an advanced stage, it’s important to know your own risk factors. In addition to a personal or family history of high blood pressure or diabetes, these include heart disease, obesity, long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen, having an autoimmune disorder, and being over the age of 60. 

The National Kidney Foundation also offers a brief online quiz designed to help you assess your kidney disease risk; this quiz is available at minuteforyourkidneys.org.

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