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Kidney Disease Risks Among African Americans

Caught early, kidney problems can be managed

American Kidney Fund | 8/30/2013, 3 p.m.
More than 150,000 black people in this country are suffering from kidney failure.

African Americans are more at risk for kidney failure than any other race. More than 1 in 3 kidney failure patients living in the United States is African American. That is more than 150,000 people!

Why Are African Americans More at Risk?

Although we are not exactly sure why African Americans are more at risk, diabetes, high blood pressure and access to health care play a big part.

Diabetes is the No. 1 cause of kidney failure. It causes almost half of all cases in the United States. Diabetes is a serious problem for African Americans:

African Americans get diabetes more often.

  • African Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to have diabetes.
  • About 1 in 9 (11.4%) African-American adults has diabetes.
  • Over the last 35 years, the number of people with diabetes has doubled.

Diabetes affects African Americans differently.

  • African Americans with diabetes develop kidney failure more often than whites.
  • Diabetes causes heart disease and other problems in African Americans more often than whites.

Many African Americans don't know they have diabetes.

  • About 1 in 3 African Americans with diabetes does not know he or she has it.

High blood pressure is the No. 2 cause of kidney failure. It causes about 1 out of 4 cases in the United States. High blood pressure is a serious problem for African Americans:

African Americans get high blood pressure more often.

  • Almost half of African-American adults have high blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure affects African Americans differently.
  • African Americans are six times as likely to get kidney failure from their high blood pressure as whites.

Almost 1 in 5 African Americans is uninsured. If diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease are caught early, they can usually be managed. However, almost 1 in 5 African Americans is not insured. As a result, their health-care choices may be limited.

How Can I Prevent Kidney Disease?

  1. Get tested. Talk to your doctor about being tested for diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease. Many patients with kidney disease never have any symptoms until it is too late. Ask your doctor to perform a blood and urine test to test for kidney disease.
  2. Eat right. Eat foods low in fat and cholesterol. Eat foods that are high in fiber. Limit how much alcohol you drink.
  3. Live healthy. Exercise, keep a healthy weight, don’t smoke or use tobacco, and treat bladder and kidney infections fast.
  4. Manage diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure cause about 3 out of 4 cases of kidney failure. If you have either, talk to your doctor about how to keep them in control.

For more information, go to the American Kidney Fund.