This post was originally published on St. Louis American

By Dr. Denise Hooks-Anderson 

Did you know that Black people make up only 13% of the population but 35% of the population with kidney failure? 

Your kidneys are important for eliminating waste, making red blood cells, balancing the body’s fluids, producing hormones that control blood pressure, and keeping your bones strong. When your kidneys are not working properly, this is known as chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is possible to have CKD and not experience any symptoms initially.

Renal failure is different from chronic kidney disease. There are five stages of CKD, from mild kidney function loss, Stage I, to complete kidney failure, Stage V. End stage renal disease means that your kidneys are functioning below 10%. Kidney disease progression can sometimes be avoided with the proper medical care and early detection. A cure for renal failure or chronic kidney disease does not exist.

Nine out of ten adults do not know that they have CKD. About 37 million adults in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease, but most are undiagnosed. Therefore, chronic kidney disease is considered a silent killer. 

There are many medical, social, and environmental causes that contribute to chronic kidney disease. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes. The force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels as your heart pumps blood to the rest of your body is blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure causes microscopic damage to the vessels. Over time, this can cause damage to your heart, eyes, and kidneys. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight, and diets high in salt are risk factors for high blood pressure, also known as a silent killer. Many people with high blood pressure can also be unaware of their diagnosis. It is important for you to see your health professional and regularly check your blood pressure with that in mind.

Per the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. There is no cure for high blood pressure, but it can be managed with lifestyle modifications and sometimes medications. Incorporating diets such as “DASH” (dietary approaches to stop hypertension), exercising regularly, and adhering to medicinal therapy can control your blood pressure, which decreases your risk of progressing to chronic kidney disease.

Diabetes is also a major risk factor for chronic kidney disease. Diabetes is defined as the body’s inability to control glucose levels in the blood. The problem is either the body not producing enough insulin or not utilizing the insulin appropriately within the tissue. In the U.S., 34 million Americans have diabetes. Per the United States Preventive Service Task Force, you should be screened for diabetes and pre-diabetes.

To determine if you are at risk of CKD or if you have CKD, please speak with your doctor about being tested. A blood test can determine your glomerular filtration rate and your creatinine, both of which indicate kidney function. Another critical test is checking for protein in the urine. If you have not had these necessary tests checked for some time, please consult with your provider.

If you are interested in learning more about chronic kidney disease, visit

Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D., FAAFP is interim assistant dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and a SLUCare Family Medicine associate professor.