‘How are my kidneys?’: How to be proactive about kidney health

The D.C. area has the highest rate of kidney disease of any place in the nation: 8,000 people await transplants and 80% of them are from minority communities. A Maryland researcher believes work currently underway might eventually help turn those numbers around.

“In this era of regenerative medicine [we’re] thinking about what are the components that are necessary to use your own potentially scarred kidney to serve as a scaffold to have it regenerate its own function?” said Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“That’s an area of very active investigation at the moment,” said Rodgers, who is also a Master in the American College of Physicians.

Until science figures out how to prompt bodies into repairing their own damaged kidneys, Rodgers recommends people consider becoming organ donors — check the organ donor box on your driver’s license.

“We all sort of have to think about — should I take all of my organs with me?”

As a living donor you can live a perfectly healthy life, Rodgers said, with just one kidney.

And because you only need one kidney, people don’t develop symptoms when there’s a problem until severe damage is done. Rodgers said people at higher risk of developing kidney disease should be proactively diligent. You can learn about some of these risk factors by watching the video below.

Risk factors for kidney disease are high if you’re African American or Hispanic and if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or family history of kidney disease.

“When you see your health care provider — if they don’t do it automatically — be proactive and say: ‘Doctor, how are my kidneys?'” Rodgers said, adding that simple tests can reveal whether someone has kidney damage.

“Depending upon how extensive it is, there are measures that can be instituted that can either reverse or certainly slow the course of that future kidney damage,” Rodgers said.

You can find advice about preventing kidney disease on the NIDDK website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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