Quiz: Are you at risk?

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NEW YORK CITY March is National Kidney Month, the perfect time to take this test from the National Kidney Foundation by checking any of the statements below that apply to you:

  • You have diabetes
  • You have high blood pressure or heart disease
  • You have a family history of chronic kidney disease
  • You are 60 years of age or older
  • Your ethnic background is African-American, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander

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The above are risk factors for CKD. If you checked off any of them, you may have CKD. Healthy kidneys balance your body's fluids by filtering and releasing wastes and excess fluids from your body as urine; regulate your body's fluid level and important minerals in your blood such as sodium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium; remove drugs and toxins from your body; and release hormones into your blood that control blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep your bones healthy. When you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys can no longer perform these functions properly.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in nine Americans has CKD, but many don't know it.

The leading causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes increases pressure inside the kidney's filters. Over a period of time, this pressure damages the filters, which then leak protein into the urine. High blood pressure, or hypertension, means that the pressure of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels increases. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to CKD, heart attacks and strokes.

Why are African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans at increased risk for kidney disease? One reason is that diabetes is more common in these groups than in the population at large. African Americans experience a higher incidence of high blood pressure. These groups may have an inherited tendency to develop these diseases.

More clues as to whether or not you may have CKD are the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue, a loss of energy
  • Poor appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Muscle cramping at night
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Puffiness around the eyes, particularly in the morning
  • The need to urinate more often, especially at night
  • Unexpected weight loss or gain

If you have any of the risk factors or symptoms here, or don't know whether or not you have any of the risk factors mentioned, ask your doctor immediately for tests, including blood and urine tests that can determine how your kidneys are functioning. If left unchecked, CKD can lead to cardiovascular disease, among other serious health problems, as well as kidney failure. It can even be fatal. To learn more, contact the National Kidney Foundation at (212) 889-2210 or visit www.kidney.org.

The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, influencing public policy in support of the kidney community and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.

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