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Risks for Chronic Kidney Disease in African Americans

Did you know African Americans are at increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) leading to dialysis and transplant? Compared to other ethnic groups, the African American population has higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, which are the two leading causes of kidney disease.

Almost one in every three African Americans has high blood pressure. Because there are no warning signs, frequently people have high blood pressure or kidney disease and don't even know they have a health problem. Even diabetes doesn't always have symptoms. This is why it is important to have regular physicals or screening for high blood pressure and diabetes. If you get a clean bill of health, follow a healthy lifestyle to prevent getting a disease. If you find out you have diabetes and/or high blood pressure, be sure to discuss your condition with your doctor. Follow your doctor's advice and remember to take all prescribed medications.

Many African Americans already know they have diabetes or high blood pressure, but are not aware they may also have kidney disease. They are shocked to be diagnosed with kidney failure and then immediately begin dialysis. Even though their kidney disease progressed over time to kidney failure, it's as if it happened all of a sudden.

Other factors that can lead to kidney failure include, drug abuse, HIV and sickle cell disease.

When you are diagnosed early with any of the diseases that may lead to kidney disease, you can do your part to prevent or delay kidney failure and decrease the risks of serious complications. When kidney failure happens, dialysis or kidney transplant are the only treatment options.

Advanced awareness is the key to better health. Make February the month you find out your health risk for kidney disease. Take a look at these staggering statistics and share this information with African American family members and friends. Then make an appointment to get checked and know your numbers.

Risk factors and symptoms for diabetes in African Americans

Type-2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in African Americans. Risk factors for type-2 diabetes include:

  • Family history
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • Diabetes during pregnancy
  • Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity

Below are some common symptoms, however, you can feel fine and still have diabetes, so get checked regularly.

  • Thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue

Prevention of diabetes & high blood pressure in African Americans

You can take actions to help prevent these diseases by :

If you are already diagnosed with diabetes and/or high blood pressure, in addition to following the above steps, you should also make sure to take your prescribed medication and visit your physician regularly.

Risk factors and symptoms for high blood pressure in African Americans

High blood pressure is the second most common cause of kidney failure in African Americans. Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Aging
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Using birth control pills
  • Adding too much salt to food

When it comes to high blood pressure symptoms there are usually none, and that's why you should get your blood pressure checked regularly.

Risk factors and symptoms for kidney disease in African Americans

You may be at risk for developing kidney disease if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • A family member with kidney disease

Symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • Swelling, especially around the eyes or ankles
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Burning or unusual sensation during urination
  • Bloody or coffee-colored urine
  • Urinating more often, especially at night
  • Feeling tired
  • High blood pressure

Remember, you can feel fine and still have kidney disease, so get checked regularly.

How African Americans can better the odds

  • Be aware of risk factors for diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.
  • Visit your doctor or a clinic regularly to check blood sugar, blood pressure, urine protein and kidney function.
  • To limit the risk of getting diabetes and high blood pressure, eat a healthy diet, limit salt intake, watch your weight and exercise regularly.
  • If you're diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, control diabetes and high blood pressure to avoid complications.

If you would like to see a doctor who specializes in the care of kidneys (called a nephrologist), you can use DaVita's Find a Kidney Doctor tool to locate a nephrologist in your area. You can also sign up for a no-cost Kidney Smart education class held in your neighborhood or online. Another way to tell people to get checked for kidney disease is to send them an inspirational DaVita e-card. There are many ways to help you and your loved ones realize the risks of kidney disease in African Americans.


  1. U.S. Renal Data System 2005 Annual Data Report ( www.usrds.org )
  2. "Diabetes in African Americans," from the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information
  3. Clearinghouse ( www.niddk.nih.gov )
  4. American Heart Association Meeting Report ( www.americanheart.org )
  5. "Early Identification of Renal Disease Among African Americans: A Continuing Problem," M Thornhill
  6. Joynes and M. Moore, Nephrology News & Issues, November 1995, p.16-18.
  7. Agodoa LY, Appel L, Bakris GL, Beck G, Bourgoignie J, Briggs JP et al. Effect of ramipril vs amlodipine on renal outcomes in hypertensive nephrosclerosis: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2001; 285(21):2719-2728.