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Why Hispanic/Latino People Are at Greater Risk for Kidney Disease and Failure

In the United States, 37 million adults have kidney disease, but 90 percent of these people don’t even know it. In the early stages of kidney disease, most people don’t have symptoms. Therefore, everyone needs to know about this silent killer, but even more so if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney disease.


Joseph Vassalotti, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer, National Kidney Foundation

Hispanics and kidney disease

There are many environmental, medical, and social factors that contribute to an increased risk of developing kidney disease. Specifically, your access to healthcare, and where you live, work, and play can all determine risk. 

Hispanics/Latinos are almost twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes than white people. In fact, 14.7 percent of Hispanics have diabetes, a leading cause of kidney disease. Among Hispanics, those of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent face the highest risk, compared with those from Central or South American backgrounds. Hispanics/Latinos also have less access to healthcare than other Americans with 16.7 percent of Hispanics uninsured

What is kidney disease? 

Kidney disease is characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function. Healthy kidneys remove waste products and extra fluid from the body, help make red blood cells, keep your bones healthy, and help control blood pressure. 

Kidney damage may be caused by a physical injury or diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, family history, older age, obesity, or other health problems. If you have kidney disease, you may need to take medicines, limit salt and certain foods in your diet, and get regular exercise.

Treating kidney disease early can slow or even stop it from getting worse. However, if it gets worse, it can lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay healthy. 

What to do?

If you have any of these risk factors, you’ll need to talk to your doctor about getting two simple tests.

First, you’ll need a urine test that checks for albumin; a type of protein in your urine. Having albumin in your urine may mean your kidneys and blood vessels are damaged. This can be an early sign of kidney disease. Next, you’ll need a blood test to estimate GFR, which stands for glomerular filtration rate. Your GFR number tells you how well your kidneys are working — think of GFR as a percentage of kidney function, with 60 or more as normal.

In addition to these tests, Hispanic/Latino people should get annual tests for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. You need to know your health status regarding these diseases.

The best way to avoid kidney disease is to live a healthy lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet, get physical activity, lose weight if needed, avoid smoking, and limit alcohol intake. A healthy lifestyle will help you avoid kidney disease, or at least slow or stop the disease from getting worse.

Knowing you’re at risk is the first step toward living a healthier lifestyle, so take a simple, one-minute quiz available in English and Spanish at

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