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What African Americans with Diabetes or High Blood Pressure Need to Know

Get Checked for Kidney Disease​

Why should I be checked for kidney disease?

Diabetes and high blood pressure can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney disease. You need to get checked for kidney disease if you have one of these conditions. Here are some other reasons to get checked:

  • Early kidney disease has no signs or symptoms. The only way to know if you have kidney disease is to get checked for it.
  • Kidney disease does not go away. It may get worse over time and can lead to kidney failure. You will need to go on dialysis or have a kidney transplant if your kidneys fail.
  • Kidney disease can be treated. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help delay or prevent kidney failure. Treating kidney disease may also help prevent heart disease.

You also should be checked for kidney disease if you have:

  • cardiovascular (heart) disease, or
  • a mother, father, sister, or brother with kidney failure.

Graphic of a person with arrows pointing to the kidneys
You have two kidneys located near the middle of your back, just under your rib cage. Their main job is to filter wastes and extra water from the blood to make urine. Wastes can build up in the body when the kidneys are damaged.

How will I be checked for kidney disease?

Two tests are used to check for kidney disease.

  • A blood test checks your GFR, which tells how well your kidneys are filtering. GFR stands for glomerular (glow-MAIR-you-lure) filtration rate.
  • A urine test checks for albumin in your urine. Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.


  • Diabetes is the #1 cause of kidney failure among African Americans. High blood pressure is the #2 cause.
  • African Americans have a higher rate of kidney failure than any other group of people.

At your next h​ealth care visit, make sure:

  • You learn your GFR and the amount of albumin in your urine. Both should be checked if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • Your blood pressure and blood sugar have been checked and are in your target range. Your blood pressure should be checked at each visit, and your blood sugar should be checked yearly if you have diabetes. If your levels are too high, work with your health care team to get them in a range that’s right for you.

What steps ca​n I take to keep my kidneys healthy?

  1. Get checked for kidney disease. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner it can be treated.
  2. Manage your diabetes and keep your blood pressure at or below the target set by your health care provider. For most people, the blood pressure target is less than 140/90 mm Hg.

Here​'s how:

  • Eat healthy
  • Cut back on salt
  • Be active
  • Take medicines as prescribed

Tell others about the Kidney Connectio​n:

Help your family or faith community Make the Kidney Connection between diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. You don’t have to be a health expert to talk to them about kidney health and the importance of getting checked. The National Kidney Disease Education Program’s easy-to-use tools—the Family Reunion Health Guide (PDF, 1.51 MB) and Kidney Sundays Toolkit (PDF, 1.43 MB) — tell you how.

PDF files require Adobe Acrobat​​​

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.

September 17, 2014​

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