The American Kidney Fund (AKF), the nation’s leading nonprofit organization fighting kidney disease, works on behalf of 37 million Americans living with this often high-burden condition, as well as their caregivers and the millions of others who are at risk. The organization focuses on preventing the disease, increasing access to transplants and home dialysis, and boosting participation in clinical trials. Importantly, its financial assistance program helps patients with health care costs. “This is what sets us apart,” said Mike Spigler, vice president of patient services and kidney disease education. “We are a 360-degree organization that offers support to all individuals in their fight against kidney disease.”
AKF’s top priority this year is addressing health disparities, especially those that leave some populations more vulnerable to kidney disease than others. In fact, AKF has also joined a strong national movement to improve kidney disease diagnosis and ensure that care and treatment is more readily available to Black Americans. The current method used to determine the stage of a person's disease, the eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate), may be diagnosing Black Americans with less severe disease than they actually have. The current prevalence of kidney disease among Black Americans is 5.8 percent. A recent study found that if the eGFR method was made more accurate, nearly a third of Black Americans might be reclassified as having a more severe stage of kidney disease. AKF and other organizations have committed to ensuring the eGFR provides a more objective assessment of kidney function so that Black Americans and their health teams can make informed decisions about care.
Another priority for AKF is building awareness and knowledge. March is National Kidney Month, and this year the organization is educating the public about what it means to live with kidney disease. Using the theme Living Well with Kidney Disease, AKF wants people to know that advances in treatments are making it far more possible to have a good quality of life even if they have the disease. Spigler noted that the group is also encouraging those at risk to get tested. “Kidney disease is a silent killer,” Spigler said. “Nine out of ten people in the early stages don’t know they have it. And you can’t live well with kidney disease if you don’t know you have it.”
The Kidney/Heart Relationship
It’s not widely known that high blood pressure and heart disease can cause kidney disease, and vice versa. Not only is high blood pressure a leading cause of kidney disease, heart disease is also the most common cause of death among people on dialysis. This is why the partnership between AKF and NHLBI’s The Heart Truth® is essential.
Although the partnership is new, AKF has shared NHLBI resources with its audience for years. The partnership has become an integral part of AKF’s strategy to reach and assist more individuals battling, or at risk for, kidney and heart disease.
AKF now offers a Heart Healthy recipe collection that features recipes from NHLBI’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan in its “Kidney Kitchen®.” AKF developed this user-friendly resource about healthy eating to manage kidney disease. About 90 percent of American adults consume too much sodium, which affects blood pressure. Lack of knowledge about sodium and healthy eating is why nearly one-third of patients “crash” into dialysis, meaning they suddenly have to begin dialysis, typically after a trip to the emergency room, Spigler said.
Kidney Kitchen has more than 500 kidney-friendly recipes developed by culinary professionals and registered renal dietitians, reviewed by renal dietitians and tested to make sure the instructions are easy to follow for every home cook, regardless of skill level. It also has information on cooking supplies and techniques, as well as nutrition guides, nutrient information, and cooking videos.
The Heart Truth will partner with AKF to celebrate Kidney Month 2021 and the milestones people have celebrated while fighting kidney disease. Throughout the month, we’ll highlight these recipes and other important resources around kidney disease prevention and progression, as it relates to heart health.
For more information and to follow AKF activities for Kidney Month visit its website.
The Heart Truth also has information about high blood pressure, including fact sheets in English and Spanish.