March shines a spotlight on one of the body’s most essential yet often overlooked organs: the
kidneys. In observance of National Kidney Month (and on March 9, World Kidney Day), it’s
vital to educate yourself about kidney disease: its prevalence, risk factors, and preventive
strategies. As we navigate key facts and figures, we’ll unfold crucial steps for those diagnosed
with kidney disease, emphasizing the power of awareness and proactive health management in
safeguarding kidney health.
Here’s what everyone should know.
Kidney Disease Is More Prevalent Than You Might Think
Kidney disease is a global health concern, affecting over 850 million people worldwide, including
about 37 million Americans — and 90% of those affected don’t even know they have it. Although
there are many types of kidney disorders, the most common is Chronic Kidney Disease
(CKD), a progressive loss of kidney function over time. It’s imperative to understand the risk
factors of CKD and the most affected demographic groups in order to address it effectively.
Who Gets Kidney Disease? Major Risk Factors
The greatest risk factors for chronic kidney disease include diabetes, hypertension, obesity,
and a family history of kidney failure. Other medical conditions and characteristics that can
increase your likelihood of developing kidney disease include:
● Being over 60
● Having a low birth weight
● Using NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, full-dose aspirin, and others) for a prolonged period of time
● Having lupus or another autoimmune disorder
● Having chronic urinary tract infections
● Having kidney stones
Unfortunately, social conditions known as social determinants of health also play a significant
role in who gets kidney disease, as they impact people’s ability to prevent or manage the
disease with the resources available to them.
For example, people who receive a high-quality education are more equipped to live healthier
lifestyles, qualify for lucrative careers, and seek out partners who do as well. Those whose jobs
come with standard benefits packages have greater access to essential health screenings as
well as preventive and interventive healthcare. And groups who can afford housing in desirable
cities and neighborhoods often enjoy more environmental health-boosting benefits, such as
safety from crime, full-service grocery stores and pharmacies, greenspaces, and more.
Although anyone can develop CKD, African Americans, Latinx, Asian Americans, and Native
Americans are at higher risk. This is partly because some of these groups are likelier to have
medical conditions that contribute to poor kidney health, like diabetes. However, it’s also partly
because structural racism both causes and worsens many of the negative social determinants
of health faced by communities of color, including the healthcare they need to prevent and treat
In addition, Americans who live in the rural South experience higher rates of disease and death
than their northern and urban counterparts, with people of color at greater risk than their White
counterparts. As a result, it’s essential for Americans to support education programs and
services in the regions and communities where they’re most needed.
How to Protect Your Kidneys and Prevent Disease
Preventing kidney disease involves a combination of lifestyle changes and regular health
check-ups. Key preventive measures include:
● Maintaining a healthy diet low in sodium and processed foods
● Getting regular exercise
● Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels
● Avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption
● Staying hydrated
● Managing stress
● Getting adequate high-quality sleep
● Maintaining a healthy weight and taking safe, effective weight loss measures if you are overweight
● Seeing your healthcare providers regularly
Getting regular kidney function screenings, especially for those at higher risk, is also essential.
Early detection and management can slow or halt the progression of the disease, highlighting
the importance of regular health screenings.
Managing Kidney Disease
If you are diagnosed with kidney disease of any kind, it’s crucial to take immediate steps to
manage the condition. This includes working closely with healthcare providers to create a
personalized treatment plan, which may involve medication, lifestyle adjustments, and in
advanced cases, dialysis or transplantation. Regular monitoring and managing coexisting
conditions such as diabetes or hypertension are vital components of effective kidney disease
Kidney Disease Resources for Vulnerable Populations
If you are member of a group that is particularly vulnerable to kidney disease, it’s important to
seek out healthcare resources of various kinds, including:
● Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) offered by pharmaceutical companies
● Generic medications, where possible, which are often far cheaper than name-brand ones but have the same active ingredients
● Federal and state healthcare assistance programs
● Community health centers (which may be able to connect you with affordable specialized services)
● Nonprofit organizations with health-related missions and service programs
Get Kidney Health Support Services With the Alabama Kidney Foundation
Alabama ranks first in the number of dialysis patients per capita in the United States, and
currently, over 1,000 Alabama residents are waiting for a kidney transplant. The Alabama
Kidney Foundation (AKF) provides education, support services, and financial assistance to
low-income kidney dialysis patients. The Foundation also provides statewide education to
promote organ donation awareness and prevention of kidney disease.
We help connect patients to experts who can provide information on how to manage everything,
including dialysis treatment, transplant surgery, and dealing with the mental toll that comes with
a kidney disease diagnosis. Contact us today to learn how we can help you!
Wondering what you can do for Kidney Awareness Month? Join us in March, April, or May for
our Kidney Walk & Celebration events throughout the state, or support these wherever you are
by donating to our campaign online. Alternatively, consider volunteering with us to support
Alabamian kidney health!