Are you Kidney Aware?


Kidneys are essential to our health and one of the most important organs in the body. They get rid of excess water and toxins, regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep bones strong. The kidneys are normally very efficient and it can be a long time before there are signs that something is wrong. When kidneys are damaged or lose function over time, this is known as chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Kidney disease affects over 3 million people in the UK but up to a million of these people may be undiagnosed, which is worrying as kidney disease can’t be reversed. Kidney disease has a number of causes but by far the biggest risk is from uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure. Other causes include problems with the immune system, infections or it can be an inherited condition. Depending on the problem, early diagnosis and prompt treatment as well as changes in diet and lifestyle (including taking more exercise) are vital and can often help slow down or prevent any further damage. Left unchecked, however, kidney disease can progress to kidney failure, which is fatal without treatment by dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Children are also affected by kidney disease but they are more likely to experience the consequences of birth defects and inherited genetic kidney conditions.

Kidney Facts

  • Our kidneys filter around 180 litres of blood every day.
  • Kidney disease is common and can affect anyone, including children, and there is no cure.
  • Kidney failure is fatal without dialysis or a transplant
  • Right now, around 64,000 people in the UK are being treated for kidney failure
  • 3,300 kidney transplants take place in the UK every year but over 5,200 people are still waiting
  • WE estimate there are 60,000 premature deaths in the UK every year due to chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Nearly 1,000 children in the UK have kidneys which have completely failed and require lifelong treatment
  • Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden drop in kidney function, often as a complication of another serious illness
  • AKI affects 1 in 5 people admitted to hospital as an emergency and may be more deadly than a heart attack
  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are five times more likely to experience kidney failure than other groups.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure are the biggest causes of kidney disease
  • One in four adults (one in five children) in the UK are severely overweight, which is a major risk for developing kidney disease
  • Smoking slows blood flow to the kidneys and stops them working properly

How to improve your kidney health

Although anyone can develop kidney disease, there are a few things that can increase your risk:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Black, Asian or minority ethnic background

There are several easy ways to reduce the risk of developing kidney disease. Some small changes in behaviour and lifestyle (including taking more exercise) can have enormous health benefits.

  • Monitor your blood pressure – High blood pressure accelerates kidney damage. To protect yourself from kidney disease you should also maintain a diet low in salt and saturated fats.
  • Keep fit and active – This helps reduce your blood pressure and therefore reduces the risk of kidney disease.
  • Don’t smoke – Smoking slows blood flow to the kidneys, decreasing their ability to function properly.
  • Eat healthily and keep your weight in check – This can help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with kidney disease.
  • Get your kidney function tested – If anyone in your family has suffered from kidney disease, you are diabetic or have high blood pressure or are severely overweight.
  • Keep well hydrated – This helps the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body which can significantly lower the risk of developing kidney disease. (Dialysis patients however may need to restrict their fluid intake.)

Much of this information is available on our World Kidney Day Flyer and Poster on the Campaign Materials page